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Safe Worker Act Would Allow Electronic Union Voting

The bipartisan bill would make union elections easier and safer

Brian Young's picture
Jan 29, 2021

With the pandemic raging, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has had to face the reality that in-person voting in a union election might not be safe. To fix this Congressman Andy Levin introduced a bill to allow electronic voting.

The bill, known as the SAFE Worker Act was first introduced in July of 2020 but was reintroduced into the new Congress this week. The bill would repeal a ban on electronic voting and would order the NLRB to develop a system for accepting electronic ballots, and $1,000,000 in funding for the NLRB to fund the new procedure.  

The SAFE Workers Act is endorsed by the AFL-CIO; American Federation of Teachers (AFT); Communications Workers of America (CWA); International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM); International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE); Transit Workers Union of America (TWU); United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW); and United Steelworkers (USW).

“Having electronic voting processes would add a useful and necessary tool in the NLRB’s toolbox to protect the safety of workers – including NLRB employees – while ensuring that the right to organize is preserved,” said Congressman Levin.

The bill has bipartisan support with Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) joining as a cosponsor.

"During a public health crisis, the freedom of workers to join unions and negotiate with their employers is even more important than ever," said CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens. "As millions of workers are losing their jobs or being forced to take pay cuts or furloughs – and as many other workers are forced to work without adequate safety precautions under threats of losing their job during an unprecedented economic crisis – the freedom of workers to organize in the workplace must be protected."

Beyond a pandemic, electronic voting would help to decrease the power that bosses have over their workers during an election. For example, in the current organizing drive in Alabama against Amazon, the company is pushing hard for in-person voting so that they can pressure the workers to vote against the election. Thankfully the NLRB has put the safety of the workers first and is allowing an election by mail-in votes. However, the election will take over a month to complete, whereas an electronic election could be done significantly faster.

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