WHAT IS A DEAUTHORIZATION ELECTION? You (or someone you know) may work under a contract that requires employees to "join" the union or pay dues or fees to the union as a condition of employment. This is frequently referred to as a “union security clause,” but it is really a forced unionism clause that hands union officials the power to get workers fired for not paying dues to a union that they do not support.
Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees can call for a special election to get rid of the “union security clause,” and thereby rid their workplace of forced unionism. This is called a Deauthorization Election, because employees “deauthorize” the forced-unionism clause and remove it from the contract. (NOTE: Deauthorization elections only occur under the NLRA and have no application whatsoever to the Railway Labor Act (a law that affects airline and railroad employees) and most laws governing state and local public employees and public school employees. The few state laws governing public employees that provide for deauthorization are summarized here.)
A deauthorization election has only one purpose and effect: to remove the forced-unionism clause from the contract. The remainder of the contract, including all wages and benefits, remains in effect and the union continues to serve as the exclusive bargaining representative, whether or not the employees pay any dues or fees. Even after a successful deauthorization, every employee remains fully covered by the contract, whether or not he or she remains a union member or pays any dues.
A deauthorization election should be distinguished from a “Decertification” election, in which employees vote to remove the union as their collective bargaining representative. While decertification elections can normally be held only near the expiration of the contract (or every three years, whichever comes first), deauthorization elections can be held at any time during the life of the contract.
Most employees prefer a workplace where membership and the payment of dues is voluntary, as it forces the union hierarchy to be more accountable to the rank-and-file
workers. Instead of relying on threats, intimidation, and even firings to gain financial support, union officials have to sell the benefits of union membership.
Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees have the right to call for this deauthorization election at any time. If 30% or more of the employees in the bargaining unit sign a Deauthorization Petition, the National Labor Relations Board will conduct a secret ballot election to determine if a majority of the employees wish to throw out the forced-unionism clause and give employees freedom in the decision whether to join or pay dues to the union. If the petitioning employees win that election, then employees cannot be compelled to pay any dues or fees to the union, and their bargaining unit becomes an "open shop."
HOW TO GET STARTED: First, employees should assess the strength of support for deauthorization within their overall bargaining unit. Usually, is it not worth calling for such an election unless the petitioning employees believe they will be able to garner the support of a majority of their fellow employees. This is especially true because in order to successfully "deauthorize" a forced unionism clause, the NLRB requires the petitioning employees to garner the votes of a majority of those employees eligible to vote, not just a majority of those employees who show up to vote on election day!
In order to proceed, employees should begin collecting signatures on a petition which reads something like the following:
PETITION FOR WITHDRAWAL OF UNION SHOP AUTHORITY–
The undersigned employees, constituting 30% or more of the bargaining unit covered by a contract between ___________________ (union name) and _______________________ (employer name), wish to withdraw the authority of _____________________(union name) and _______________________(employer name) to enter into and enforce the union shop clause in the contract.
The undersigned employees petition the National Labor Relations Board to hold a deauthorization election to determine whether the majority of employees wish to withdraw the authority of the union and the employer to enter into and enforce the union shop clause in the contract.
These signatures should be collected when the employees are on non-work time, and in non-work areas! You must fill in the names of the union and employer in the blank spaces above before you collect signatures.
For more signature blanks, click here.
Once employees have collected the appropriate number if signatures, they also need to fill out a separate NLRB "Petition" form. This single sheet of paper is easy to fill out, and is available from any Regional Office of the NLRB. The NLRB’s website contains copies of the Petition form (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader) and others, as well as a directory of the regional NLRB offices in your area.
For more information about other options related to limiting union coercive power over workers, click here.
Finally, you may contact Foundation staff attorneys if you have questions about how to proceed, or need assistance getting through to the NLRB.