The rights discussed in this section are those available to private-sector employees under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Charter school employees may be classified as public- or private-sector employees. For an explanation of this classification for purposes of compulsory unionism, please visit: “Public or Private—Why Does It Matter?”
Most employees prefer a workplace where they are free to discuss their terms and conditions of employment directly with the employer, without intervention by a third-party. They also prefer a workplace in which union membership and the payment of dues is voluntary, as this 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 representation and membership to the individual employees.
“Exclusive representation” refers to a union’s right to represent and collectively bargain for all employees in a bargaining unit. It is actually a government-granted monopoly bargaining privilege giving union officials the power to negotiate contracts that you and other charter school employees may not like while barring you from negotiating your own terms of employment. Except in Right to Work states, collective bargaining agreements almost always include a provision mandating that employees be fired for not paying fees to a union they do not want to support, or mandating automatic deduction of union fees.
A decertification election is an election in which employees vote to revoke the union’s certification as the monopoly bargaining representative with their employer. In effect, the union is voted out of the workplace and any requirement that nonmembers must pay fees to the union is revoked.
State law varies as to the rules for conducting a decertification election for charter school employees who are considered public-sector employees. To see a particular state’s laws regarding such elections, click here. If you do not see your state listed, your state most likely has no decertification law for charter school employees.The National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) governs decertification elections for private-sector employees.
According to the NLRA, as interpreted by the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”), and most state bargaining laws, there are several requirements as to when you may file for a decertification election. The first rule is the “certification bar,” which states that decertification election petitions cannot be filed for at least one year after a union either wins a certification election or is voluntarily recognized by the employer.
Another rule is the “contract bar,” under which, decertification election petitions cannot be filed during the first three years of a bargaining agreement, except during a specific 30-day “window period.” In most workplaces, the 30-day “window period” is 60 to 90 days prior to the collective bargaining agreement’s expiration date or three-year anniversary, whichever is first. In other words, decertification petitions may be filed anytime after a contract expires or is more than three years old. However, if the employer and union enter into a new collective bargaining agreement, then another three-year “contract bar” begins and prevents the filing of any decertification petitions. Therefore, if the “window period” comes and goes with no petition filed, charter school employees may have to wait another three years before requesting a decertification election.
Additionally, if a new employer takes over near the expiration of the bargaining agreement or after the contract has expired, the union has a “reasonable time” to bargain with the new employer, even if the contract had expired months ago. Contact a Foundation staff attorney at (800) 336-3600 or by email or click here to fill out a legal aid request form if you are unsure when you can collect signatures on a decertification petition or file the petition.
Under the NLRA and most state laws, if 30 percent or more of employees in a bargaining unit sign a decertification petition, the NLRB or state labor board will conduct a secret-ballot election to determine if a majority of charter school employees in the unit wish to decertify the union and stop it from any further “exclusive representation.” If the petitioning employees win that election, then the employer becomes nonunion. As a result, all charter school employees are free to bargain on their own, and negotiate their own terms and conditions of employment. Under the NLRA, if 50 percent or more of the employees in a bargaining unit sign a petition that they no longer want to be represented by the union, the employer can withdraw recognition without an election if it wishes to do so, and neither the certification nor contract bars applies.
The petition must be an employee-only effort. Employer assistance is unlawful and, if there is any, the union will nullify the effort by filing an unfair labor practice charge. For information on how to start a petition for a decertification election under the NLRA, click here. For all questions about decertification, please contact Foundation staff attorneys at (800) 336-3600 or by email or click here to fill out a legal aid request form.