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Policy: Labor

Big Labor applauds NLRB's revival of speedy elections rule

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor,NLRB,AFL-CIO,Richard Trumka

Calling it an "important step in the right direction," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka applauded the National Labor Relations Board's decision to revive a proposed rule change that would speed up the process for holding workplace organizing votes. unions have long called for the change, saying the current process disadvantages them.

"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," Trumka said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., ranking Republican on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, slammed the board, saying it was being an advocate for unions rather than a neutral observer: "This latest effort is a political power play on behalf of unions that makes an end run around employers and forces workers to make decisions without all of the facts."

The NLRB, in fact, passed the rule change once before in 2011, only to have it struck down in court the following year because the board lacked a proper quorum when it was adopted. (At that time, the five-member board only had two members, one of whom was later found by a different court to have unconstitutionally appointed.)

The board's announcement Wednesday morning said the new rule would be "identical" to the prior one.

"I believe that the [rule] first proposed in June of 2011 continues to best frame the issues ," NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce said. The proposal was approved in a 3-2 vote, with the board's Democratic majority overruling the Republican minority.

The proposed rule change would, among other things, shorten the interval from when a federally monitored election is requested to when the NLRB holds it, ensure that unions get telephone numbers and emails addresses of workers and allow only a single post-election appeal process.

The change would make it significantly harder for employers to make the case against unionization to their workers. It would also ensure unions can contact all employees, even those who do not want their information given away.

"Unnecessary delay and inefficiencies hurt both employees and employers. These proposals are intended to improve the process for all parties," Pearce said.

To revive the rule, the NLRB will have to start the rule-making process from scratch, a process that will likely take months. However, the rule change is unlikely to be struck down this time on the same grounds as it was earlier. The board now has a full five members who received Senate approval.

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