The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, February 14, 2014

Labor lauds speedier union election rules while GOP, business groups seethe

By The Building Tradesman

WASHINGTON (PAI)—By a 3-2 party line vote on Feb. 4, the National Labor Relations Board proposed rules to change union election procedures, making elections less liable to delay and more transparent.  Union leaders welcomed the NLRB’s proposals.  The Right Wing House GOP and the National Retail Federation screamed.

“The rules were needed then,” when a prior NLRB first proposed them in 2011 “and they are still needed now,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.

“When workers petition for an NLRB election, they should receive a timely opportunity to vote.  But the current NLRB election process is riddled with delay and provides too many opportunities for employers to manipulate and drag out the process through costly and unnecessary litigation and deny workers a vote.  These rules are an important step in the right direction,” Trumka added.

“Taken together, the rules would help stop companies from abusing the legal process to stall election votes, as many do now,” Teamsters President James Hoffa added.  “Workers for too long have been forced to endure unnecessary delays when they have tried to start a union.  “We urge the NLRB to move forward with these changes so hard-working Americans can organize and better provide for their families.”

“The proposals” will let the board “more effectively administer” labor law, NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce said.  “The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking presents a number of changes to representation case procedures aimed at modernizing processes, enhancing transparency and eliminating unnecessary litigation and delay.”

The board OKd similar rules in 2011, but the GOP-named majority on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed them out after business groups sued.  The judges said the board then lacked a quorum.  It has five confirmed members, and a quorum, now.

“Unnecessary delay and inefficiencies hurt both employees and employers,” Pearce said.  “These proposals are intended to improve the process for all parties, in all cases, whether nonunion employees are seeking a union to represent them or unionized employees are seeking to decertify a union.  We look forward to further exchange of ideas to improve the processes” to benefit workers, firms and the U.S.

The NLRB wants to let unions and businesses send documents, including recognition election petitions, electronically, and to “streamline pre- and post-election procedures to facilitate agreement and eliminate unnecessary litigation.”  It wants to add phone numbers and e-mail addresses to eligible voter lists, called Excelsior lists, firms must turn over, via the board, to unions filing the required number of signatures.

The NLRB also wants to “consolidate all election-related appeals to the board into a single post-election appeals process.”  Right now, firms delay union recognition elections by filing challenges to who can vote, when the vote can occur and other details.  They then take their complaints to the board and the federal courts.

In the meantime, employers can stall the elections and get months – or years – to conduct vicious and often-illegal anti-union campaigns.  The NLRB’s proposal would potentially reduce that time.  And it prompted the GOP and retailers’ screams.

The Radical Right GOP majority on the House Education and the Workforce Committee denounced “ambush elections.”  It said it would haul the NLRB before the committee on March 5.  The retailers launched a PR blitz against the proposed rules.

The National Retail Federation’s Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French said the new NLRB rule “seeks to limit employees and employers’ participation in union elections by reducing the timeframe between the filing of union petitions and the actual election. What’s not new is the NLRB’s desire to support union activism over sound public policy.

“The National Retail Federation maintains that employers should be given ample time and opportunity to make their case on unionization and intends to file its formal objections to the ambush election rule. NRF urges the NLRB to live up to its obligation to be an objective arbiter for both employees and employers.”

Meanwhile, the board set an April 7 deadline for written comments on the proposals and said it would hold public hearings on them that week, too.

Union leaders have long maintained that businesses use delaying tactics to sway their employees to vote against union organizing drives during captive audience meetings and the like. The responses to the NLRB rule by the National Retail Federation and business magazine Forbes confirmed that suspicion.

Forbes said the new rule “leaves employers with virtually no time to present their views on unionization to their employees, and substantially less opportunity to persuade employees that the union’s side of the story is not the only side.”