It’s back to business for the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), at least when it comes to representation elections. The NLRB announced on April 1, 2020, that it would not extend its temporary suspension of elections past Friday, April 3, 2020. The NLRB will resume conducting elections on Monday, April 6, 2020.
The NLRB had temporarily suspended NLRB elections on March 19, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The suspension applied to both in person and mail-in elections. The NLRB stated that suspending elections was necessary to ensure the health and safety of its employees, as well as the health and safety of the members of the public involved in elections. Additionally, when this order was released, several regional offices were closed while employees at other locations were teleworking— causing the NLRB to believe that it was impossible to effectively conduct elections.
The NLRB’s decision to freeze union elections was not without criticism. Congressman Bobby Scott (D – Va.), a member of the Education and Labor Committee, sent a letter to Chairman John Ring (R) urging the NLRB to reverse the suspension of election procedures. Scott explained that the COVID-19 pandemic had imposed an extraordinary strain on labor relations. Scott also asserted that the NLRB had failed to protect workers’ rights of association and self-organization by suspending election procedures.
With regards to resuming election procedures on Monday, Chairman Ring explained that the two-week closure had allowed the NLRB’s General Counsel, Peter Robb, to review the existing logistics of the election procedures in light of COVID-19. Based on this review, the General Counsel had determined that measures are available that will ensure that elections may resume in a safe and effective manner. Chairman Ring did not explain what these “measures” will be but noted that they would be implemented by the Regional Directors.
For labor professionals, the NLRB’s decision to resume elections may be a welcome return to normalcy—or could be another strain on business. Regardless, labor professionals should be aware that elections procedures likely will be altered to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that the NLRB is attempting make the elections as safe as possible.