Labor Union Recognition Procedures: Use of Secret Ballots and Card Checks

Source: Gerald Mayer, Congressional Research Service, Order Code RL32930, April 02, 2007

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA) gives private sector workers the right to join or form a labor union and to bargain collectively over wages, hours, and other working conditions. An issue before Congress is whether to change the procedures under which workers choose to join, or not to join, a union.

Under current law, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) conducts a secret ballot election when a petition is filed requesting one. A petition can be filed by any union, worker, or employer. Workers or a union may request an election if at least 30% of workers have signed a petition or authorization cards (i.e., cards authorizing a union to represent them). The NLRA does not require secret ballot elections. An employer may voluntarily recognize a union if a majority of workers have signed authorization cards.

Legislation introduced in the 110th Congress would, if enacted, change current union recognition procedures.

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