This type of election is conducted by the Commission to determine if employees: (1) want to become represented by a union for the purposes of collective bargaining, (2) want to end their representation by a union; or (3) want to change their current representation to a different union. All such elections are conducted by secret ballot either on-site at a time and place determined by the Commission or by mail. When a mail ballot election is conducted, the ballots are mailed to the voters’ home on a date determined by the Commission and counted in the Commission’s Madison office 20 calendar days after being placed in the mail. Election results are provided to the parties on the day ballots are counted.


The election process typically begins with the filing of a petition for election form by the union interested in representing the employees or by the employees who want to end their union representation. Except for elections involving employees of the state of Wisconsin, if the employees are currently unrepresented, no showing of interest is required. However, if employees affected by the petition are state employees or if the employees are seeking to end their union representation or if a union wants to replace the union currently representing the employees, a 30% showing of interest must be filed with the petition before processing will begin.

Once a petition is filed (and the validity of any required showing of interest has been established, the Commission will ask (by sending out a Stipulation for Election) the affected parties if they can agree on the wording of a general description of the employees affected by the petition (the bargaining unit description) and on a list of the employees who will be eligible to vote. If needed, the Commission will conduct a hearing and issue a decision resolving any such disputes. Once the description of the bargaining unit and the list of eligible voters has been established, the Commission issues a Direction of Election and schedules the election.

Election Results

For elections affecting private sector employees or public safety employees (law enforcement or firefighters) and public transit employees not employed by the state of Wisconsin, a union must receive a majority of the votes cast to win. In all other elections, a union must receive the votes of at least 51% of all eligible voters to win. If a dispute that could affect the election result is timely raised, the Commission will decide whether the election result should be modified or a new election conducted.

Unit Clarification. If there is a dispute regarding who is included in an existing bargaining unit, the employer or the union can file a unit clarification petition. If the dispute cannot be resolved voluntarily, the Commission will decide the matter after conducting any necessary hearing.

Resources. Additional information can be found in the Commission’s administrative rules at ERC 3 (private sector elections), ERC 11 (elections involving public sector employees other than state of Wisconsin employees) and ERC 21 (state employee elections).