Hawaii’s New Card Check Law


Despite already being the second most unionized state in the nation (behind New York), Hawaii lawmakers in July overrode Governor Lingle’s veto of the state’s new “Card Check” legislation. While similar to the national Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) whose future remains controversial and uncertain, this new Hawaii law impacts far fewer employers than would EFCA. Hawaii businesses with revenues in excess of $5 million per year whose employees are not covered by the National Labor Relations Act (primarily agricultural employers*) are subject to Hawaii House Bill 952 which amends the Hawaii Employment Relations Act (HERA).

Up until the passage of this law, the unionization process has consisted of a secret-ballot election where employees had the opportunity to vote for or against the union effort in a process that has been federally supervised. Under “Card Check”, the state’s Labor Relations Board is able to certify the results of a representation election simply based on having a majority count of signed authorization cards. A private ballot election is prohibited, even if the workers want one. Additionally, after the union is certified, the employer must begin the bargaining process within 10 days. If no agreement is reached after 90 days, either side can request conciliation. If another 20 days go by without an agreement, an arbitrator is assigned whose decision is binding for 2 years. The law brings with it fines of up for $10,000 per unfair labor practice.

For details about HB 952, click here: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2009/Bills/HB952_CD1_.HTM

* In addition to agricultural employees, other employees are not subject to the NLRA – for a complete list, click here:
http://www.nlrb.gov/workplace_rights/employees_or_employers_not_covered_by_nlra.aspx

What employers need to do:

  • Verify if your company and/or your employees fall under the protection of the NLRA or not
  • Keep an open dialogue with employees and make efforts to address their needs and concerns
  • If a “Card Check” process is commenced, obtain guidance from a management labor law attorney

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