Unionizing Process: Certification, Decertification

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  • 0:02 Law and Regulator
  • 1:02 Certification Process
  • 4:35 Decertification Process
  • 6:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

Union representation requires certification and ending union representation requires decertification. In this lesson, you'll learn about the processes involved in certification and decertification. A short quiz follows.

Law and Regulator

Nate is disgusted. He has worked for the same manufacturing company for the past ten years, and his wages have not kept up with inflation; his benefits have become less valuable; and his employer is lax on safety and health issues. He's approached his supervisors, but they ignore him. His co-workers have the same experience. One night at the local bowling alley, Nate and some of his friends decide to bring in a union to represent them.

Nobody at the alley actually knows much about union organizing, so they head over to Nate's house to do some online research. Nate and his friends find out that the process is governed by the National Labor Relations Act, which is the law that protects the rights of employees to organize and bargain with their employer as a group rather than individually. Nate also learns that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent federal agency whose responsibilities include overseeing the unionization process.

Certification Process

Nate and his co-workers discover that they have to have an election to allow all the workers to decide whether they wish to be represented by the union. In fact, Nate discovers that he needs to present a petition to the National Labor Relations Board establishing that at least 30% of the employees that would be subject to union representation are interested in it. Nate's not too worried because he knows that most employees are disgruntled, and he's pretty confident he'll clear the 30% hurdle.

Nate contacts a buddy from another plant that is unionized, and he hooks Nate up with the union at his shop. The union is interested in representing Nate and his co-workers and agrees to help with the organizing efforts. It doesn't take long to gather up a sufficient number of employees to join the petition, and it is submitted to the NLRB.

The petition is reviewed by the NLRB to make sure that the Board has jurisdiction, that the union Nate is working with is qualified and to make sure there are no current labor contracts that would prevent an election, such as a union already being in place with a current unexpired labor contract that is not close to expiring. After its review, the NLRB gave the green light to proceed with an election.

Now that the petition has been approved, agents from the NLRB will meet with Nate's company and the union in an attempt to hammer out an election agreement. The agreement may include such things as:

  • Time and place of election
  • Ballot language
  • Size of the collective bargaining unit, which is the group of employees who will be represented by the union if the unionization effort prevails
  • Voter eligibility

After an agreement is reached, the NLRB's regional director for Nate's geographic region will conduct the election. If an agreement cannot be reached, the regional director will set up a hearing and order an election with terms and conditions determined by the rules and previous decisions of the Board.

About 30 days after the director's authorization, Nate gets his election. During the election period, both the employer and union are prohibited from interfering with the free choice of employees in making a decision. They cannot threaten or intimidate. For example, an employer cannot threaten to cut wages, fire employees or close the plant.

The winner of the election is determined by a majority vote. If more employees vote for union representation than against it, the union will be certified by the NLRB to be the exclusive representative of the employees.

Nate's side wins the election, and his employer is ticked. It believes the union engaged in some shenanigans that caused the election results not to be a result of the free choice of employees. It decides to exercise its right to object to the election results to the regional director. The director rules against the employer. Undeterred, the employer appeals the director's decision to the Board in Washington, D.C. The Board finds the objections without merit. The union is certified, and Nate's employer must bargain with it or be guilty of an unfair labor practice under the NLRA.

Decertification Process

Nate and his co-workers are celebrating their electoral victory at the bowling alley when Sal approaches. Sal is one of the workers that didn't want unionization, and he's a sore loser. He tells Nate that he hopes his union works out because now they're stuck with it. Nate pats Sal on the back and tells him he's worried about nothing. If the union doesn't work out, employees can seek to decertify the union. Sal asks Nate to explain.

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