Deauthorization Election 

[En español] 

PLEASE NOTE: Exercising your rights as an employee subject to American labor law can be complicated. If you are unsure about how to apply the information described on this page, you can contact the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for free legal assistance by calling 1-800-336-3600 or through our Request Legal Aid page.

WHAT IS A DEAUTHORIZATION ELECTION? 

You (or someone you know) may work under a contract that requires employees to “join” a union or pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment However, employees can call for a special election to get rid of a “union security cause” and ensure they’re no longer forced to pay union dues. 

This is called a “deauthorization election” because employees "deauthorize" the forced-unionism clause and remove it from the contract. 

This deauthorization process described on this page only applies to private sector employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act. The following employees should look elsewhere for information about how to stop paying dues to an unwanted union:

  • Airline and railroad employees.
  • State and local public employees.

All employees in a bargaining unit (i.e., those whom the contract between the union and employer states it covers) can sign petitions and vote in deauthorization elections, regardless of their membership or non-membership in the union.

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 under the NLRA 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.

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.

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 allow employees to choose whether or not to pay dues to a 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 

NOTICE: Each Regional Office of the NLRB has broad discretion to accept or reject each deauthorization petition that is filed. Thus, these directions must be precisely followed to ensure the best possible chance that the Region will accept and investigate an employee’s petition. If you have any troubles with the Region accepting your petition, please contact a Foundation Staff Attorney for assistance

INTRODUCTION:

Employees should follow these three steps to petition the National Labor Relations Board for a deauthorization election: 

  1. COLLECT SIGNATURES
  2. PREPARE DOCUMENTS
  3. FILE

STEP 1: COLLECT SIGNATURES 

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 all unit employees. 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.

Employees should collect signatures on a petition (“Signature Petition” or “Showing of Interest”) which reads something like this sample petition. 

NOTE: Signatures should be collected when 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 the lines for signatures before you collect signatures. There should be no employer help, and employer resources should not be used.

STEP 2: PREPARE DOCUMENTS

After collecting signatures for the Signature Petition, employees should fill out a UD Petition (NLRB Form 502 – UD), which is available on the NLRB’s website or at any NLRB Regional Office (a list of the Regional Offices and map showing the areas they cover can be found here). If you have questions about filling out Form 502- UD, please call 703-321-8510 or, toll-free, 800-336-3600 and ask for a Foundation Staff Attorney to walk you through the process.

STEP 3: FILE 

After collecting the necessary signatures and documents, employees must file with the NLRB. The following documents must be filed with the NLRB, regardless of which method you use for submitting them.  

  • The completed and signed UD Petition (NLRB Form 502 - UD). 
  • The Signature Petition from Step 1.

IMPORTANT: Regardless of which method you use to submit these documents, you should always keep copies for your own records. 

HOW TO FILE:

There are a variety of options for filing:

OPTION A: ELECTRONICALLY

To electronically file, employees should E-File the necessary documents via the NLRB’s website with the Regional Director for the Region where the bargaining unit exists.

After E-Filing, employees MUST also mail or hand deliver the Signature Petition containing the original signatures gathered in Step 1 to the Region. The original signatures must be received by the Region within two business days after E-Filing. The Region will likely reject employee petitions if the original signatures are not timely received.

OPTION B: MAIL

To file via mail, employees should mail the necessary documents to the Regional Director of the NLRB Region where the bargaining unit exists.

OPTION C: HAND DELIVERY

Employees can file by simply delivering the necessary documents in person to the Regional Director of the NLRB Region where the bargaining unit exists.

OPTION D: FAX

To file via fax, employees should fax the necessary documents to the Regional Director of the NLRB Region where the bargaining unit exists. 

After faxing the necessary documents, employees MUST also mail or hand deliver the Signature Petition containing the original signatures gathered in Step 1 to the Region. The original signatures must be received by the Region within two business days after the facsimile transmission. The Region will likely reject employee petitions if the original signatures are not timely received.

Also, employees should mail or hand delivery the original UD Petition (NLRB Form 502 – UD) to the Regional office where the petition was faxed.

QUESTIONS? 

Finally, you should contact Foundation staff attorneys if you have questions about how to proceed, need assistance getting through to the NLRB, or encounter legal difficulties interfering with your efforts.

Other Helpful Documents for Employees


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