The rights discussed here are those available to private-sector employees under the National Labor Relations Act. Charter school employees may be classified as either 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?”
If a union collects signed authorization cards from 50% plus 1 of the charter school employees at your workplace, your employer could, or may be required to, recognize the union as the monopoly bargaining representative of all charter school employees without a secret ballot election.
You have the legal right to: (1) not sign a union authorization card; (2) revoke any authorization card you may have signed; and (3) sign and circulate a petition against monopoly union representation. You may be denied the right to decertify, or remove, an unwanted union for anywhere from six months to one year after the employer’s recognition of it, and up to three years more if the employer and union sign a contract. Lamons Gasket Co., 357 N.L.R.B. No. 72 (2011).
(1) You have a legal right to refrain from signing a union authorization card. Whether you wish to sign a union authorization card is completely up to you. It is unlawful for an employer or a union to threaten or coerce any employee to sign a union authorization card or to misrepresent the purpose of the card.
For example, it is unlawful for a union or employer to tell you that if you do not sign a card, you will be fired if the union becomes your monopoly bargaining representative. You should also be wary of union propaganda that claims, “We already have a majority of signed cards, and we want you to sign in order to show the employer that we really have a unanimous workforce.” If the union truly had a majority of signed cards, it likely would have already demanded monopoly representation status from the employer, and not be wasting time collecting more signatures.
(2) You have a legal right to revoke any union authorization card that you have signed. It is illegal for a union to restrict your right to revoke such a card. You may revoke any union authorization card you signed by signing a letter, card, petition, or other document stating that you do not support the union, or that you support another union.
Under the National Labor Relations Board’s “dual card” doctrine, when an employee signs two documents with conflicting statements of union support—for example, a card in favor of union representation and then another card against representation—then neither document is valid proof of the employee’s preference concerning union representation. See Parkwood Dev’l Ctr. Inc., 347 N.L.R.B. 974 (2006); Le Marquis Hotel, LLC, 340 N.L.R.B. 485 (2003).
However, if you do not inform the union or employer that you revoked a union authorization card you signed, they may count you as a union supporter during any card count. Moreover, recent Board decisions have questioned the Board’s treatment of dual card signers. E.g., Johnson Controls, Inc., 368 N.L.R.B. No. 20 (2019).
Therefore, if you wish to revoke a union authorization card, you should notify, in writing, both the union and your employer that you are unequivocally doing so to ensure that your union representational preference is known and will be honored. For a sample letter to revoke an authorization card, click here. To possess proof of delivery, you should send the letter by certified mail, return receipt requested.
(3) You have a legal right to sign and circulate cards or petitions against union representation. You have the legal right to campaign against union representation if you choose, provided that it is done on non-work time (such as during work breaks) and in non-work locations (such as in break or lunch rooms). An employer cannot discriminate against you or other charter school employees based on your opposition to or support of union representation, if done on non-work time in non-work areas.
If you oppose union representation, signing and circulating such a petition may be the most important way to exercise your legal right to refrain from union representation. Click here for a sample petition for private-sector charter school employees. (If you are an employee of a charter school that is considered a public-sector school, you would follow your state law as to where to file the petition, and replace the name of the NLRB with your appropriate state public-sector labor agency’s name.)
An employee’s signature on a card or petition against union representation invalidates any union authorization card he or she signed earlier for up to one year. Therefore, if 50 percent or more of charter school employees in a bargaining unit sign a card or petition against union representation, it may be mathematically impossible for the union to organize the school or charter-school management organization (“CMO”)/education management organization (“EMO”) via a “card check” for one year.
Every charter school employee has a protected legal right to decide whether or not to sign a union authorization card, free from threats, restraint, harassment, coercion, or misrepresentation. The Foundation takes no position about how you should exercise your right to join or refrain from joining a union. The Foundation simply wants all charter school employees to make this choice in an atmosphere free of restraint, threats, and coercion.
If you have questions about your rights when a union is conducting a “card check” campaign or is otherwise attempting to organize your charter school workplace, for answers or assistance in dealing with the appropriate state agency, court, or the NLRB to protect your rights, you should contact a Foundation staff attorney at (800) 336-3600 or by email to [email protected] or click here to fill out a legal aid request form.