As the COVID-19 pandemic forced changes in the way the National Labor Relations Board conducts representation elections, an analysis of the election outcomes shows that mail-ballot elections result in lower voter participation and greater union win rates.
In early Spring, when the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the United States shutting down many businesses and government agencies, the National Labor Relations Board altered its normal practice of conducting onsite-manual representation elections and ordered mail-ballot elections instead.
Due to the fact that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)—the government agency responsible for administering labor law in most private-sector workplaces except airlines and railroads—determines election outcomes by only those votes cast (not the total number of employees eligible), voter turnout often plays a significant role in determining the outcome of NLRB elections.
Based upon an analysis of elections conducted during the first six months of 2020, changing the NLRB’s normal method of conducting onsite-manual elections to more mail-ballot elections proved to be a big win for unions.
An analysis of 239 representation elections* held by the National Labor Relations Board from January 2020 through May 2020, shows that the NLRB conducted 82 mail-ballot elections, compared to 157 onsite-manual elections.
When it comes to voter participation, as well as union win rates, mail-in ballots resulted in greater union outcomes overall than manual ballots did.
For example, with mail-in ballots, voter participation was suppressed by an average of 11 percent.
In mail-ballot elections, an average of only 70% of the eligible voters cast ballots, compared to 81% in onsite-manual elections.
The fact that fewer voters voted in mail-ballot elections compared to manual-ballot elections appears to have directly impacted the union win rates as well.
Unions won 78.1 percent of the elections in mail-ballot elections which is significantly more than the 70.1 percent of the manual-ballot elections unions won.
* — There were 15 NLRB elections where the methodology (i.e., manual or mail-ballot) was undetermined.”