Earlier this week, the National Labor Relations Board (“Board”) proposed a rule change cutting off unions’ access to workers’ email addresses and cellphone numbers before elections. The proposed rule can be found here. If adopted, the rule would be a big win for employers because it would curb unions’ access to worker contact info during election campaigns. This proposal marks the Trump administration’s latest rollback of Obama-era changes to the representation election process.
The Board said the new rule will “advance important employee privacy interests,” in a press release announcing the proposed change.
Under the current rule, employers are required to disclose personal email addresses and home and cellphone numbers, in addition to physical addresses, on the list of employees eligible to vote in union elections. Employers and employer advocates have criticized these disclosures as an invasion of workers’ privacy. The Board cited these “voluminous comments” in its proposal, noting three main privacy concerns:
- Cellphone numbers are an identifier that can be used to steal workers’ data;
- Workers were never given the option of withholding their information; and
- Employee’s phone numbers and email addresses are generally more private than their home addresses.
The current Board believes that employees clearly have a heightened privacy interest in their personal email addresses and telephone numbers.
The Board’s proposal would also restore military service members’ ability to vote by mail while on leave from their jobs. Under the proposal, parties to elections would have five days after an agency official calls a vote to request that the Board provide absentee ballots to services members, and those workers would have 30 days to respond from the mailing date. Workers not on leave would vote in-person in the meantime, and if the number of absentee ballots is not enough to affect the results of the in-person vote, they would not be counted.
COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:
The Board’s notice of proposal gives stakeholders 60 days from publication to submit comments, which the Board must consider and address in its final rule. We will continue to watch as the Board moves towards issuing its final rule and provide an update as things progress further. If you have any questions about the proposed rule change, or any questions about union activity at your business, contact the experts at the Saqui Law Group, a division of Dowling Aaron Incorporated.