U.S. Chamber's Workforce Freedom Initiative cites issues with electronic signatures

A recent ruling that lets the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accept electronic signatures for election petitions is under way, much to the chagrin of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Workforce Freedom Initiative.

A recent ruling that lets the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accept electronic signatures for election petitions is under way, much to the chagrin of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Workforce Freedom Initiative.

Specifically, the NLRB ruling that went into effect Sept. 1 allows regional offices to accept electronic signatures for the required “showings of interest” in support of election petitions. What that means is that unions may use emailed electronic authorization cards and social media sign-ups during the initial states of organizing campaigns.

While the NLRB ruling is part of the federal agency’s attempt to make union elections easier to hold, the ruling also is mired in controversy.

For example, Boeing most recently came out against the NLRB ruling when the International Association of Machinists used the new method at the company's South Carolina plant. A Boeing spokesman said the potential exists for fraud because the NLRB guidance doesn’t provide any verification of signatures for possible identity fraud.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Workforce Freedom Initiative agrees and recently cited an additional issue.

“Certainly the electronic signature process raises concerns about fraud, but it also seems that the National Labor Relations Board is edging towards the electronic voting mechanism that Congress has specifically prohibited,” Glenn Spencer, vice president of the chamber initiative, told Palmetto Business Daily.

In fact, Congress has blocked funds for the NLRB pursuing electronic voting for the past several years in approving the federal budget, according to the initiative.

Most recently, the approved Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 indicated that “none of the funds provided by this Act or previous Acts making appropriations for the [NLRB] may be used to issue any new administrative directive or regulation that would provide employees any means of voting through any electronic means in an election to determine a representative for the purposes of collective bargaining” (Public Law 113-235, section 406).

Nevertheless, the NLRB presumes as a general rule that signatures in support of a showing of interest are authentic and valid unless there is objective evidence otherwise. The board also considers a showing of interest as an administrative matter that’s within its sole discretion and outside any legal challenges by interested parties.

To be accepted by the NLRB, an electronic signature must be:

• Accompanied by the signer's name, email address or other known contact information (e.g., social media account address),

• Telephone number,

• Authorization language agreed upon by the signer,

• The date of signature, and

• The name of the employer.

Additionally, the submitted information cannot contain the signer's birth date or social security number and a union that submits electronic signatures also must submit a declaration identifying the technology used and how its controls ensure the identity of the signing person and what the person signing agreed to.

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