PEO and the Labor Union

PEO and the Labor UnionAccording to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) data, it settled or adjusted 36% of the unfair labor practice charges presented in 2014, and 61% were disposed of through dismissal or withdrawal.

Despite the markedly pro-union pre-disposition of the current Federal administration, of the 2053 petitions for labor recognition filed in 2014, 1407 (68.5%) proceeded to election, and unions won 952 (46% of the total petitions and 67.6% of the elections held). And, 586 (28.5%) of the original petitions were withdrawn for any number of reasons.

What does this exposure to labor unions mean to the Professional Labor Organization relationship? 

Unions struggle to grow, but . . .

The number of election petitions in 2014 is half that of those filed 10 years ago. While it represents a small increase over 2013, the number of petitions continues to run flat. Nonetheless, business organizations with and without PEO relationships need to rethink strategies for future challenges in a climate of new regulations:

  • Organizers may file Petitions electronically rather than by mail or fax.
  • A Notice of Election provides employee voters with full disclosure about rights, obligations, and voting process.
  • A Notice of Posting rule requires employers to permanently and publicly post employee rights under the NLRA.
  • Pre- and post-election hearings schedule firmly and quickly, allowing elections as soon as two weeks following indication of sufficient employee interest.
  • Non-petitioners must identify their issues with the petition.
  • Employers must provide detailed lists of prospective voters by job classification, location, and shift before the pre-hearing.
  • Voter lists provided must include voters’ phone numbers and email addresses within two business days of the election approval.
  • Changes invite smaller businesses to organize through the action of fewer employees.
  • The NLRB may review all employee handbooks for language that inhibits protected organizing activity.

The thrust of this burst of NLRB changes speeds up the process of union petition, eases the application and voting, and maximizes participation with fuller information and assured privacy. Only the dysfunction between the White House and Congress has forestalled even more pro-labor moves.

What you and your PEO need to do 

PEOs have not been targets of labor action, in part, because of their size, but that alone is not protection. PEOs present labor unions with a bit of a puzzle. Unions target the employees of the Employer-of-Record, yet the PEO co-employs workers at a contracted worksite. But, that no longer shelters your organization. With the new push for speed, privacy, and ease in union organization, PEOs and their client employers need to raise their awareness and protection in their self-interest.

PEOs generally have the formal education and expertise in labor legislation. You can trust yours to take the lead on what you need to do to anticipate and comply with existing and evolving labor trends.

NAPEO recommends making labor relations a central issue in your PEO relationship:

  1. Conduct a labor relations audit to vet company policies that might restrict concerted activity. Policies on confidentiality, anti-harassment, social media, conduct, and behavior may all need revision to confirm compliance with NLRB decisions.
  2. Enable and encourage website communication between employees and management. If you enable 24/7 connectivity that lets the employer discover and address potential or growing concerns, you can dilute or solve worker tensions.
  3. Identify “supervisors” correctly. Supervisors are not eligible for unionization, so it pays to know what numbers are eligible for organization.
  4. Retain experienced Labor Law Counsel for guidance on NRLA compliance, training, and policies. And, solicit that advice before acting on any employee issue that even tangentially relates to potential union issues.

All employees want a voice. They want to be heard on issues that affect them, and they are surprisingly apt at making recommendations that improve company policy and performance. Theoretically, if they feel that voice is effectively heard, most employees have no desire to pay for third-party representation.

Knowing this, maintaining a working relationship with your PEO, seeking its input on company policies and behaviors, and securing adequate counsel are all vital to forestall an undesired labor union effort on your PEO relationship.