Employers often ask me whether their seasonal employees are eligible to vote in union elections. The short answer is that seasonal employees who have a reasonable expectation of reemployment are eligible to vote in an election.
Seasonal employees who processed and canned vegetables and fruit juice were eligible to vote in a representation election under a stipulation allowing employees who were temporarily laid off to vote. The company’s business cycle caused a yearly need for temporary seasonal employees during tomato season and often during other seasons. The challenged employees all came from the same local market and had worked for the company in years past giving the employees a reasonable expectation of recall to justify their inclusion in the bargaining unit.
Employers should not presume that seasonal or part-time workers are automatically eligible to vote, though. Seasonal or part-time workers who are irregularly employed or regarded as temporary help have been denied the ability to vote.
College students who work during the summer are often ineligible to vote in a union election because they are casual summer employees who lack a reasonable expectation of permanent employment and do not share enough of a community of interest to be included in the bargaining unit. Similarly, casual employees of a non-profit religious hospital who had sporadic and irregular work schedules were also not eligible to vote in a representation election.
Seasonable employees are more likely to oppose unionization and their inclusion in the bargaining unit is often in the employer’s favor. So companies faced with a union organizing drive or election petition should discuss their options with counsel whether to seek to include those workers in the bargaining unit.
Matt Austin is a Columbus, Ohio lawyer who owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm with offices in central and northeast Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. Austin Legal’s Concierge Legal Services program is relied upon by companies to remain compliant and competitive. If you have employees, you need Concierge Legal Services. You can call Matt at (614) 285-5342 or email him at Austin@LaborEmploymentOSHA.com.