Labor Board Tries Again on Unions’ Voting Rules

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from The New York Times,

Labor regulators are trying once again to streamline the process workers go through when deciding whether to join labor unions, a move sure to reignite the bitter debate between union supporters and employers that seek to discourage workers from unionizing.

The National Labor Relations Board proposed rules on Wednesday that would allow unions to hold workplace elections more quickly by simplifying procedures, setting shorter deadlines and requiring businesses to hand over lists of employee phone numbers and emails to union leaders before a vote. That could make it easier for unions to organize, and reverse decades of steep membership declines.

The board approved similar rules more than two years ago, but business groups challenged the rules in court. A federal judge ruled in 2012 that the N.L.R.B. failed to follow proper voting procedures, but left the door open for the board to try again.

The labor board has been mired in controversy since the first time it tried to modify the election rules. Some Senate Republicans vowed to effectively shut the agency down by blocking President Obama from appointing new board members. But last year, after a prolonged dispute, the senators agreed to allow confirmation of five members to full terms on the board — three Democrats and two Republicans.

The plan also calls for electronic filing of petitions and other documents, and streamlined procedures to reduce unnecessary litigation.

The board said in a statement that the new case procedures aim to modernize processes, enhance transparency and eliminate unnecessary litigation and delay. The latest proposal was approved by the three Democratic board members; the Republicans dissented.

Businesses vigorously oppose the rules because they complain that the shortened time frames will not give employers enough of a chance to counter union organizers. Most labor elections take place 45 to 60 days after a union gathers enough signatures to file a petition. The new plan could cut that time by days or even weeks, opponents warn.

This has led business leaders like Jay Timmons, president and chief executive of the National Association of Manufacturers, to refer to the plan as the “ambush election” rule.

Richard Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., called the rules “an important step in the right direction.”

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