PHILADELPHIA--A recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has made it easier for an employer to test an incumbent union's strength.

"It would be an unfair labor practice to cease recognizing an incumbent union based on an employer's desire," says Jeffrey L. Bratt, a labor and employment attorney. "However, if an employer sees that a union has lost a majority of employee support, there are steps that can test that theory." These range from the union walking away from the relationship to the employer proving a "good faith doubt" and calling for an election.

The NLRB cites several examples that could establish "good faith reasonable uncertainty." This distinction--"good faith doubt" and "good faith uncertainty"--makes it somewhat easier for an employer to file an election petition to test the union's position. Cause for testing the waters would include anti-union petitions signed by employees and firsthand statements by employees concerning personal opposition to an incumbent union, employees' unverified statements regarding other employees' anti-union sentiments, and employees' statements expressing dissatisfaction with the union's performance at the bargaining table.