By Don McIntosh
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced March 19 that it won’t conduct any union representation elections, even by mail, until at least April 3 — due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Just the day before, the agency had announced it would suspend in-person elections, but would still conduct elections via mail if a business and union agree. Because union elections require people to congregate, that made sense in the midst of an epidemic. But ending mail ballots too?
The memo says the suspension is “to ensure the health and safety of our employees, as well as those members of the public who are involved in the election process.”
Workers at the U.S. Postal Service are still handling and delivering mail. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 as a result of touching mail, and that there is very low risk due to the poor survivability of coronaviruses on these types of surfaces.
But NLRB agents —except those needed to handle mail—have been teleworking since March 16, and the agency’s practice for counting ballots still requires some human contact. NLRB agents count mail ballots in front of observers from both sides; verifying them could be a challenge if they observe CDC recommendation to maintain six feet of distance.