Jason Greer, founder of Greer Consulting Inc. and labor relations expert, recently joined me on an episode of Let’s Fix Work. We discussed the state of labor relations and unions in the United States today. While we covered many facets of labor relations, I wanted to bring to light, in a blog post, what it takes to decertify a union. For some background on Jason and why we were talking about decertifying unions; Jason is a Gen-Xer with a slightly different take on unions. He believes in protecting the working class. He also believes a union is the wrong way to protect your interests.

First, the technical stuff: If you have a union that is certified under the National Labor Relations Board, employees have the right to do a Decertification Campaign. With this type of campaign there is a window of 90 to 100 days before the end of a collective bargaining agreement by which a Decertification petition can be filed with the NLRB.

Decertification refers to the process where the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) allows employees to call for a special election to get rid of the union as their “exclusive representative.” (1)

And now here’s a common sticking point for many employees:  Jason explains if an employee goes to their human resources manager and tells them they want to decertify the union, HR cannot get involved. HR can point the employee to several resources, but that’s where their assistance ends (at least for now).

The next phase of the Decertification process is that the employee (let’s call him the petitioner) will have his fellow employees (of at least 30 percent) sign the petition saying that they want to decertify the union.

Generally speaking, the employee is going to want to get about 60 to 70 percent of those employees on board before he actually files the Decertification petition with the NLRB. Once he has that, he can file the Decertification petition.

Following the petition submission, the secret ballot election can take place. This is when employees will determine whether or not they want to remain part of the union.

But it’s not all rainbows and unicorns…

Here is what is going to happen to the petitioner that started the campaign: The Union is going to do everything in their power to dig up dirt on his or her personal history. Jason explains that he has seen unions locate cell phone records, computer information, and do all the groundwork in terms of hiring private detectives to dig up all the dirt on the petitioner. Why? Well, because now they want to do a smear campaign, because said petitioner is at the heart of the Decertification campaign. The union will do whatever they can to make the petitioner lose all credibility.

And that is terribly depressing.

Remember, the employer can’t get involved and can’t protect the employee. The employees just want to be heard and have a voice. And, the Union is doing whatever they can to make the employees running the campaign look bad.  

There is some good news, a silver lining. Once the petition is filed with the NLRB, the management team can get involved. That’s when consultants, like Jason, can come in and help. In fact, Jason and his team oftentimes will act as an intermediary between the employees and unions – doing what they can to build back up relationships while protecting employees’ best interests at heart.

If you are unsure as to whether decertifying a union is right for you, or you simply want to start to have a conversation with your employer or union, here is some sage advice: Start the conversation early about what you want and voice your expectations. If you do so, maybe you won’t need a union, need to decertify an existing union, or even bring on an intermediary. What you need most is to have a voice, to be brave, and to begin the conversation.

“There is strength in being proactive,” says Jason. And ultimately, you want to recover (or even circumvent) a broken relationship following a union or employee dispute.

Jason and I both agree that we fix work by fixing ourselves, so if you’re interested in the state of unions in 2019 or you want to hear from an African American man who talks about civil rights and busting unions from a slightly different perspective, listen to our full conversation here.

(1) How to decertify a union, Labor Relations Institute, Inc. lrionline.com/decertification/