In the words of Vice President Joe Biden, “This is a BFD”…even bigger than BFI.
On the heels of making making companies “joint employers” of subcontractors’ employees, in yet another move—one that may prove to have far greater impact—the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board appears to have just made union organizers’ jobs exponentially easier by allowing unions to gather “electronic signatures” (instead of real signatures) to file election petitions.
Currently, a union must submit signed and dated authorization cards or a signature list. The Board presumes the signatures are valid absent objective evidence. The General Counsel concluded that the standards used to review these handwritten signatures could be applied to electronically signed documents.
The General Counsel imposed additional requirements for electronic signatures. Electronic signatures must contain the signer’s name, email address or social media account, phone number, authorization language agreed to, date, and name of the employer. The signature cannot contain private identifying information like the signer’s date of birth or Social Security number. The union submitting the electronic signatures must provide a declaration attesting to the methods used to validate the signature.
The General Counsel’s guidance is effective immediately. The guidance could be viewed as another example of the Board bypassing regulatory processes to institute union-friendly procedures. The practical impact of the guidance is that unions may immediately use email and social media to gather signatures with limited review of their authenticity. Given the Board’s recently instituted election rules and cases concerning access to employer email systems, this guidance could significantly accelerate the organizing process. [Emphasis added.]
If the General Counsel’s postition stands and, indeed, signatures gathered through social media, on websites or emails can be used by a union to call for an election to bring a union in, one must also wonder whether signatures gathered electronically can be used to decertify a union.