Sep 6, 2011 2 Comments ›› Pat Dollard
House Republicans plan to move on legislation in the coming weeks to block a proposed rule by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that will speed up union elections.
The proposal, backed by labor but heavily criticized by business groups, was tagged as one of the 10 most harmful regulations proposed by the Obama administration in a memo sent by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to House Republicans this week.
“The hope is to move forward in the coming weeks with a proposal that will rein in the NLRB, and protect employers’ right to free speech and workers’ ability to make a fully-informed decision in a union election,” a House Republican aide told The Hill.
In his memo, Cantor said the labor board’s proposed rule will afford “little time” to employers and workers who do not want to unionize.
“This summer, the NLRB issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that could significantly alter current union representation election procedures, giving both employers and employees little time to react to union formations in the future. The result will increase labor costs and uncertainty for nearly all private employers in the U.S,” Cantor said in the memo.
The GOP leader promised the House “will soon consider legislation that will bring common sense to union organizing procedures to protect the interests of both employers and their workers.”
Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have already introduced legislation — the Employee Rights Act — in both chambers of Congress that would block the proposed rule, among several other provisions.
Scott has also introduced legislation that would prohibit the labor board from ordering a company to relocate its employment, which came in response to the NLRB’s April 20 complaint against Boeing for allegedly retaliating against union workers. That bill has been marked up by the House Education and the Workforce Committee and will likely receive a floor vote later this year.
The proposed rule offers several changes to how union elections are run. Under the proposal’s many changes, union organizers will be able to electronically file their petitions, pre-election hearings will be set seven days after those petitions are filed and voters’ phone numbers and email addresses will be included on final voter lists.
Unions strongly support the proposed rule, terming it a modest step that will stop employers from thwarting the efforts of workers to unionize.
The AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation, submitted more than 21,000 comments to the NLRB backing the proposal.
“I fully support and applaud your actions in cleaning up the rights of American workers to collectively bargain for compensatory pay and benefits. Corporations consciously ignore the very foundation of their success, which is the workers. I only wish that laws could be in place to protect every worker whether they are union or not. You can count on my support,” said one comment submitted by the labor federation.
Business groups weighed in with pointed criticism.
The proposed rule “proceeds not because of any evidence the current board procedures are not working fairly and efficiently, but because union adherents and their allies in academia want it to proceed. To the extent there is delay in a small minority of representation cases, the board has neither identified its cause nor proposed a solution. Instead, the board has undertaken a wholesale revision of procedures, which have served the board and its stakeholders well,” said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in its comment.
The Chamber asked the labor board to withdraw the proposed rule.
The public has until September 6 to respond to the comments filed on the proposed rule. Then, attorneys at the NLRB have to review the comments and possibly change the proposed rule, which could take several months. Then the labor board would sign off on the final rule.
To approve the rule, the labor board will need a quorum of three members, due to a 2010 Supreme Court decision that said two NLRB members alone lack legal authority to issue rulings.
That may be an issue for the labor board.
Angry at the NLRB over its complaint against Boeing, Senate Republicans have said they will block nominations to the labor board. Currently, the labor board has only three members, with Chairwoman Wilma Liebman’s term ending last week. The NLRB will be down to two members once board member Craig Becker’s term ends when Congress adjourns for the year, likely in December.