Labor Board Moves to Expedite Union Votes

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Business Groups Opposed Same Measure in 2011.

The National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday revived a sweeping proposal to streamline and speed union-organizing elections at companies, positioning the agency for a fight with business groups, which stymied the original 2011 measure in court on a technicality. The changes would delay employers’ legal challenges, including whether certain workers are eligible to vote, until after the election occurs. Unions say that would eliminate litigation used to stall elections, but business groups say it would limit employers’ ability to launch timely challenges and counter union-organizing campaigns. The NLRB says many challenges become moot when unions lose elections.

Employers would also be required to give the union email addresses of employees eligible to vote, and the proposal would allow for electronic filing of election documents.

The proposal drew quick criticism from business groups and praise from unions.

“This proposal is a solution in search of a problem,” said Geoff Burr, vice president of government affairs for the Associated Builders and Contractors trade group, who said shortening elections doesn’t ensure more fairness and “denies employers their rights to free speech and employees the opportunity to make a fully informed decision.”

Randel Johnson, senior vice president of labor for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which sued the board over its previous proposal, said the latest version was nearly identical. “We’re looking at all our options to block it,” he said.

National Association of Manufacturers President Jay Timmons said the trade group is also prepared “to fight this battle” on all fronts, including litigation.

Richard Trumka, president of union federation AFL-CIO, said in a statement: “We applaud the National Labor Relations Board for proposing these common-sense rules.…When workers petition for an NLRB election, they should receive a timely opportunity to vote.”

NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce, a Democrat, said in a statement that “no final decisions have been made.” He added that the changes would help employers and employees, including unionized workers seeking to oust their workplace union.

Some legal experts have said the proposal would shorten the time between the filing of a vote petition with the NLRB and the actual election to 25 days or fewer. That is nearly two weeks less than last year’s median of 38 days. In contested cases, the median was 59 days.

Unions appear to have a good chance of seeing the rule adopted because the proposal was backed by the board’s three Democrats. But its two Republicans dissented, underscoring the partisan divide at the agency, which has become a symbol of political clashes over workplace regulation and unionization.

Last year, unions represented 11.3% of U.S. workers, down from about 20% in 1983. They have blamed the decline in part on voting delays.

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