The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, April 17, 2015

Obama vetoes curb on union organizing rules

By The Building Tradesman

WASHINGTON (PAI) - In a rare win for the labor movement, President Obama upheld streamlined union election rules issued by the National Labor Relations Board that could make it easier for labor unions to organize nonunion shops.

“A while back, the National Labor Relations Board, the NLRB, put forward some common-sense, modest changes to streamline the voting process for folks who wanted to join a union.  And unfortunately, the Republican Senate and House decided to put forward a proposal to reverse those changes.  I think that’s a bad idea,” the president said. 

Obama's comments in late March, and veto, were in response to Republican-sponsored legislation in Congress that would have scrapped the new NLRB rules.

The new NLRB rules, issued in December, represents a major procedural change to federal law as it pertains to union organizing. They took affect April 14, and streamline union organizing elections by allowing some documents to be filed electronically instead of by mail, and delay legal challenges by employers, including whether certain workers are eligible to vote, until after the ballots have been cast.

The rule also gives unions access to workers' personal information, including phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

Business groups and their Republican proxies have said the new rule would unfairly speed the election process and limit the time employers have to sway the votes of workers away from unionization. For years, labor unions have countered that employers have every advantage in organizing drives, especially the ability to hold closed-door, coercive meetings with employees, and the ability to delay representation votes for years.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka had earlier called the NLRB’s reforms “modest but important." “Strengthening protections for workers seeking to come together and bargain collectively is critical to workers winning much-deserved wage gains and improving their lives,” he said

Politico said the NLRB rule "dramatically increase unions' organizing leverage."

The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, predictably, was livid. They said Obama did a "giant favor" for organized labor. "From now on unions will have unlimited time to prepare their campaigns to organize a workplace, springing election paperwork on an employer when they figure they have the best change to prevail," the Journal said on April 1. "By reducing the time before an election to as little as two weeks from the current average of 38 days, unions will be able to lobby workers and make their case before a company can counter with its own argument."

Obama said “unions historically have been at the forefront of establishing things like the 40-hour work week, the weekend, elimination of child labor laws, establishing fair benefits and decent wages.  And one of the freedoms of folks here in the United States is, is if they choose to join a union, they should be able to do so.  We shouldn’t be making it impossible for that to happen.”