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Slow Mo: Union Election Pace Slowed In 2020


There was a fair amount of change in the world of union elections in 2020, including a rise in the use of mail ballots as a result of the pandemic as well as some employer-friendly developments. Bloomberg just issued a report that shows these developments impacted the amount of time the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) needed to process union election petitions.

According to the report, “Union elections dragged on for longer in 2020 than in the previous four years, reducing the chances of victory for organized labor, a Bloomberg Law analysis of federal data revealed. The median time between the filing of an election petition with the National Labor Relations Board and voting being held was an entire week longer in 2020 than in the four prior years—31 days compared to a median of 24 days from 2016 through 2019. The 2020 figure also topped the single-year median for each year between 2016 and 2019.”

Of course, before the ambush election rule took effect in 2015, the median time between petition and election was between 38 and 42 days, so we still were down significantly from that timing even in the wake of the virus. This chart from Bloomberg shows the significant impact that 2015 rule has had:

Length of NLRB Representation Election Process

Having more time between an election petition and a vote often is helpful to employers because it affords them more time to communicate with their workforces about unionization and potentially persuade them to remain union free. Employers, of course, need to keep in mind that there are specific legal rules in play that limit what such communications may look like.

With the new – likely more union-friendly – administration coming online in 2021, it’s likely we’ll see union election times remain well below what they were before 2015, and the pace will likely pick back up relative to what we saw in 2020. Stay tuned.


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