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” 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. The Deauthorization elections described here only occur under the NLRA and have no application whatsoever to the Railway Labor Act (a law that affects airline and railroad employees) and 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. Deauthorization elections under the NLRA are open to all employees in the bargaining unit, union members and non-members alike. All employees in the bargaining unit 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.

To rid a workplace of forced unionism under the Railway Labor Act or state public-sector laws that do not provide for deauthorization, workers must decertify the union that has monopoly bargaining privileges over their workplace. To see the process for decertification under the RLA, click here. To see state public-sector laws regarding decertification, click 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.

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 


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 gather the following documents that are all 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):

GET THIS DOCUMENT:

UD Petition (NLRB Form 502 - UD). NLRB Form 502 (UD) must be filled out and filed with the NLRB. Copies of Form 502 - UD are available on the NLRB’s website or at any NLRB Regional Office. Employees should fill out and complete Form 502 - UD. 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. 

AUTHORITY: 29 C.F.R. § 102.83 (2015).


STEP 3: FILE 

After collecting the necessary signatures and documents, employees must file with the NLRB. 

OVERVIEW: 

  • These documents should be filed with the NLRB: 
  • The completed and signed UD Petition (NLRB Form 502 - UD). 
  • The Signature Petition from Step 1. 

AUTHORITY: 29 C.F.R. § 102.83, 84(l)-(m) (2015).


HOW TO FILE:

There are a variety of options for filing:

  • OPTION A: ELECTRONICALLY

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

UD Petition (NLRB Form 502 - UD).

The Signature Petition from Step 1.

After E-Filing, employees MUST also send the original Signature Petition containing the signatures gathered in Step 1 to the NLRB. The original signature petition must be received by the Regional Director within two business days after E-Filing. The Region will likely reject employee petitions if the original Signature Petition is not timely received.

NOTE: Employees should keep copies of the UD Petition and Signature Petition for their records. 

AUTHORITY: 29 C.F.R. § 102.83, 84(l)-(m) (2015). See also 29 C.F.R. 102.111(a) (2015) (noting that for periods of less than 7 days, one day means one business day); Ambush Election Final Rule, 79 Fed. Reg. 74308, 74329 (Dec. 15, 2014) (to be codified at 29 C.F.R. pt. 102) (noting that Regional Director will reject an electronic or facsimile filing that is not accompanied by an “original” showing of interest within two business days).

  • OPTION B: MAIL

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

UD Petition (NLRB Form 502 - UD).

The original Signature Petition.

NOTE: Employees should keep a copy of both documents for their records. 

AUTHORITY: 29 C.F.R. § 102.83, 84(l)-(m) (2015); NLRB CASEHANDLING MANUAL PART TWO: REPRESENTATION PROCEEDINGS § 11022.3 (Sept. 2014). 

  • OPTION C: HAND DELIVERY

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

UD Petition (NLRB Form 502 - UD).

The original Signature Petition from Step 1.

NOTE: Employees should keep a copy of both documents for their records.

AUTHORITY: 29 C.F.R. § 102.83, 84(l)-(m) (2015); NLRB CASEHANDLING MANUEL PART TWO: REPRESENTATION PROCEEDINGS § 11022.3 (Sept. 2014).   

  • OPTION D: FAX

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

UD Petition (NLRB Form 502 - UD).

The Signature Petition.

Next, employees must also send the original petition containing the signatures gathered in Step 1 to the NLRB. The original signature petition must be received by the NLRB within two business days of transmitting the documents via fax. The Region will likely reject employee petitions if the original Signature Petition is not timely received. Also, employees should send the original UD Petition (NLRB Form 502 – UD) to the Regional office where the petition was faxed.

NOTE: Employees should keep a copy of both documents for their records. 

AUTHORITY: 29 C.F.R. § 102.83, 84(l)-(m) (2015).   

QUESTIONS? 

Finally, you may 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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