National Labor Relations Board’s General Counsel Abruzzo Seeks to Eliminate Secret Ballot Elections

Patrick R. Scully

The National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB” or the “Board”) General Counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, is attempting to revive unions’ ability to win recognition from employers without a secret ballot election. In a brief filed April 14, 2022, General Counsel Abruzzo called on the Board to reinstate the seventy-three-year-old Joy Silk Mills standard, which was abandoned by the Agency in the 1960s.   If the Joy Silk Mills standard is revived by the Board, an employer could not refuse to recognize a union that presented a majority of signed authorization cards unless the employer could demonstrate a good faith doubt as to the union’s majority status.  In other words, employers could not insist on a secret ballot election to determine the real sentiments of employees on the question of union representation.  Needless to say, the return of Joy Silk Mills would be a huge win for organized labor and result in many more organized workplaces.

General Counsel Abruzzo’s assumption in attempting to revive Joy Silk Mills is that authorization card signings are a reliable indicator of an employee’s free choice to be represented. This assumption is simply not true because there are almost no restrictions on what a union can say, do, or promise an employee in order to obtain a signature. The only reliable indicator of employee sentiment is a secret ballot election. General Counsel Abruzzo proposes that the NLRB take that option away from employees.

In the past week, General Counsel Abruzzo has recommended making employer-led mandatory meetings illegal and to eliminate the secret ballot election process when a union can show majority support. With these proposals, the General Counsel has dispensed with any pretense of neutrality and has arguably assumed the role of full-time advocate for organized labor.