What is the NLRB?

The NLRB is the federal agency responsible for enforcing labor laws and administering union elections when employers insist on a formal election process.

Why are we using this process?

After a strong majority of Hearst Magazines employees signed union cards, the Hearst Union Organizing Committee and the WGAE asked for voluntary union recognition from the company. Voluntary recognition has been standard in the media industry for the last several years, with employers like Condé Nast and CBS agreeing to respect the will of the majority of their employees in similar situations. However, Hearst corporate management has refused to follow this standard and has insisted on an election supervised by the NLRB. 

When will the election take place?

The rough estimate for our election date is late February or early March 2020. 

How will the list of eligible voters be determined?

If an agreement can’t be reached in the 8-10 days after a union files for an election, there is a hearing conducted by an NLRB agent to determine eligibility and proceed to an election. The Board agent will go through the proposed list of eligible employees and work with the parties to determine the final list based on federal law and NLRB policies. After the hearing, the NLRB will direct an election to occur within a month. In our case, Hearst corporate forced a lengthy hearing process, during which they argued that we should be split into six unions, that certain employees are part of an existing “union” called the Hearst International Employees Association, that Best Products should not be eligible for our union, and that certain employees are supervisors.

How will we vote?

The NLRB conducts secret ballot elections. For in-person voting, a Board agent will be present during scheduled voting times for eligible voters to show identification and vote in a booth (similar to the voting process in political elections). For mail ballots (which might be used for Hearst employees who work remotely or in cities outside of New York), eligible voters will be mailed ballots with a window of 10-14 days to ensure everyone receives a ballot and has time to mail it back to the NLRB. In all cases, the ballots will be secret.  

What are our rights leading up to the election?

We all have federally protected rights to advocate for a “Yes” vote leading up to our election and to do so in an environment free from intimidation or interrogation. For more on our rights, please check out this page from the NLRB.

What is management allowed to do/say leading up to the election?

Management can hold more “informational” or “educational” meetings leading up to the election and can advocate for us to vote “No.” However, they can’t make any threats or offer any inducements to change our minds. They can’t interrogate any of us about our support. If you have any questionable interactions with management (or their representatives), please reach out to your Organizing Committee member or email us at hearstunion@wgaeast.org to let us know. 

What happens after we win the election?

After a majority of the votes cast are in favor of our union, the NLRB will certify our union as the bargaining representative for editorial staff at all our brands. After NLRB certification, Hearst will be legally obligated to engage in good faith bargaining with our union. Then we will proceed to contract negotiations by filling out bargaining surveys to identify important issues to address in our first contract and we will nominate representatives from every brand to serve on the Hearst Union bargaining committee to compile the survey results and represent all of us in negotiations. 

For an overview of the process, the NLRB has a fact sheet that goes into more detail here.