OPINIONWorkforce

Here's what last week's change in union regulations could mean for all restaurants

Working Lunch: "This fundamentally changes labor relations in the U.S," says host Franklin Coley.

How’s a restaurant supposed to remain union-free when organizing procedures have been changed to make the process a snap for labor? This week’s Working Lunch podcast offers a few suggestions, along with a review of the do’s and don’ts employers now face because of last week’s monumental regulatory update.

Those modifications are “unbelievable and unprecedented,” Joe Kefauver, co-host of the government-issues-focused podcast, said of the procedural changes that were issued by the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that regulates union organizing. “We woke up this morning to a world that’s different from the one we knew last week.”

Co-host Franklin Coley used similar language in his characterization of the regulatory changes.

“This fundamentally changes labor relations in the U.S.,” said Coley, a principal along with Kefauver in the Orlando-based government-affairs consultancy Align Public Strategies.

As the pair explained, the NLRB changed the process for determining if the staff of a business should be recognized as a collective bargaining entity represented by a union. That determination has historically been decided by a secret ballot open to the employees.

Under the changes announced Friday by the NLRB, an election isn’t necessary. If a majority of employees demonstrate their desire to unionize, that should be enough to require that the employer negotiate in good faith with the worker group, as if it was a union.  

“Once a majority of workers signal their support for a union, the employer must immediately start working with the union,” said Coley.

If the business opts not to negotiate with the workers, it can call for a vote on unionizing. But if regulators find the employer did not show good faith leading up to the vote, they can declare the balloting unnecessary and announce the union as the winner.

Employers used to wait until an election was scheduled before they could make their pitch for the staff remaining non-union. “Now they won’t have that time to make their case,” said Coley. The NLRB could recognize a union as the workers’ legitimate representative before a vote is even near.

If an employer wants to talk up the benefits of being un-unionized, such as not being required to pay 1.8% of each paycheck to the labor group, “You’re going to be addressing this at the onboarding stage,” Coley said.

For an understanding of what the new NLRB procedures portend for all employers, download this episode of Working Lunch from wherever you get your podcasts.

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