In 1966 the National Labor Relations Board decided that this issue for workers — specifically, a “lack of information with respect to one of the choices available” — impeded their free choice in voting. The board declared that employers must provide unions with a master list of their employees, an Excelsior list, to ensure that union supporters could make their case to everyone before the election.
A complete list of employees is no minor detail. It is crucial to fair union elections. That is why it was so egregious that Harvard left over 500 eligible students off the Excelsior list last year before a student vote on unionization.
Incomplete or inaccurate Excelsior lists can reduce voter turnout. In this case, the vote was very close. About 3,000 students cast ballots, but 314 were contested (including 195 ballots that are eligible but have not yet been counted). Students lost by 185 votes.
At large workplaces like universities, workers often don’t know all of their colleagues, so communication can be limited without the Excelsior list. And eligible voters who do not appear on the list may think they can’t vote.
Accordingly, the N.L.R.B. can regard any errors in an Excelsior list — even the omission of just one employee — as inherently prejudicial to workers who seek to unionize.
The school claimed it had difficulty with the payroll system. Regardless, it excluded over 10 percent of eligible student voters from the list, and the vote was immediately challenged. The regional labor board director ordered a new, fair election.
Rather than comply, Harvard appealed to the N.L.R.B. and asked its newly appointed Trump-aligned majority to let employers argue they should be let off the hook for failing to create a complete and accurate Excelsior list — challenging the necessity of the list itself.
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