NLRB's General Counsel Skips Regulatory Process to Allow Unions to Use Electronic Signatures on Election Petitions

On September 1, 2015, the National Labor Relations Board's General Counsel issued a guidance memorandum on using electronic signatures to support a showing of interest related to a union petition.  The General Counsel announced that its current regulations allow the Board to accept electronic signatures to support a union’s showing of interest for an election petition.  As with all petitions, the union must provide evidence that at least 30 percent of the bargaining unit supports its petition before the Board will schedule an election.  

Currently, a union must submit signed and dated authorization cards or a signature list.  The Board presumes the signatures are valid absent objective evidence.  The General Counsel concluded that the standards used to review these handwritten signatures could be applied to electronically signed documents.

The General Counsel imposed additional requirements for electronic signatures.  Electronic signatures must contain the signer’s name, email address or social media account, phone number, authorization language agreed to, date, and name of the employer.  The signature cannot contain private identifying information like the signer’s date of birth or Social Security number.  The union submitting the electronic signatures must provide a declaration attesting to the methods used to validate the signature. 

The General Counsel’s guidance is effective immediately.  The guidance could be viewed as another example of the Board bypassing regulatory processes to institute union-friendly procedures.  The practical impact of the guidance is that unions may immediately use email and social media to gather signatures with limited review of their authenticity.  Given the Board’s recently instituted election rules and cases concerning access to employer email systems, this guidance could significantly accelerate the organizing process.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.