Rule 60CC-4.002 of the Florida Administrative Code requires the contract ratification votes of unions to be conducted either at a ratification meeting or by mail. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, for health and safety reasons the Florida PBA filed an emergency petition with Florida’s Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC). The petition sought to conduct all bargaining unit communications, balloting, tallying, and announcements of the results of ratification elections by electronic means.
PERC granted the PBA a variance from the normal ratification process. PERC noted that the PBA asserted “that it is confident that it can conduct the ratification vote fairly and democratically while complying with the underlying principles set forth in state law. Since the start of the outbreak, the Commission has granted several similar emergency petitions for a variance from Rule 60CC-4.002.
“While it is unnecessary to reiterate these decisions in their entirety, it is sufficient to note that in each of these cases we recognized that the current COVID-19 outbreak creates a substantial hardship in complying with Rule 60CC-4.002. Our reasoning for granting those petitions is equally applicable to the instant petition. Therefore, we grant the instant petition with the same qualifications from our earlier decisions, which are outlined below.
“We urge the Petitioners to use their best judgment in conducting an electronic vote. In granting the petition, we are providing a variance from the strict requirements of the rule; however, we are not insulating the Petitioners from voters’ complaints about the fairness of the electronic process that is used.
“Based on the current state of emergency due to COVID-19 and the nature of the relief granted in this order, the Petitioners may wish to consider delaying the ratification vote as an alternative to proceeding forward with an electronic vote. A different PERC rule requires the certified bargaining agent to promptly present the proposed agreement to the members of the bargaining unit for consideration and ratification. While the Petitioners do not expressly request relief from the ‘prompt’ submission requirement, we also grant a variance from that requirement.
“This will allow the Petitioners additional time to determine whether it is preferable to use the traditional ratification vote methods under the rule, and thereby forego any potential voter complaints with a new electronic voting process, or to proceed forward with electronic voting. This will also provide additional time for the Petitioners to see how the situation with COVID-19 unfolds and to determine with specificity how it would proceed with electronic voting.”
Florida PBA, 47 FPER ¶ 77 (Fla. PERC 2020).
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