The National Labor Relations Board will soon issue protocols for administering in-person union elections after proceeding with mail ballots in most contests since the start of the pandemic, General Counsel Peter Robb said during a webinar on labor issues related to the novel coronavirus.
The board has held four in-person elections since the emergence of the pandemic prompted local, state, and federal health authorities to issue social distancing guidelines and other measures to prevent the spread of the virus, Robb said during the event, which was hosted by the National Employment Law Council. Those manual, on-site elections were the result of an agreement between the petitioning unions and employers.
The NLRB will publicly release “protocols for manual elections,” likely this week, Robb said. The guidelines likely will follow procedures that companies such as Hearthside Food Solutions, LLC in Mississippi put in place to hold manual elections in late May.
Those measures included plastic barriers separating employees when casting their ballots from election observers and NLRB agents; ensuring that voting tables are separated from entrances and exits; using disposable pens and pencils; placing floor markings at 10-foot intervals to enforce social distancing; and the provision of sanitizer, wipes, masks, and gloves for all personnel.
Robb Expects Board to Weigh in
Hearthside certified ahead of its election that none of the voting employees had tested positive for the virus, Robb said. The union won the election, and the employer didn’t file any post-voting objections.
“It was done pretty easily, and fast,” Robb said, adding that the agency’s upcoming protocols for in-person contests would probably require similar procedures and safeguards.
“Those would be my suggestions as to what I think the board might accept to run a manual election,” Robb said. “I anticipate one of the parties will disagree, and it’ll be appealed to the board, and then we’ll get the board’s view on it.”
The board’s three Republican members—there are two empty Democratic seats—have generally upheld on appeal decisions to hold elections via mail ballot.They’ve indicated in those cases that they would like to restrict the circumstances in which mail ballots can be used as a general matter.