NLRB OKs rules to streamline union election procedures

WASHINGTON (PAI) – By a 3-2 party line vote on Feb. 4, the National Labor Relations Board proposed rules to change union election procedures, making elections less liable to delay and more transparent. Union leaders welcomed the NLRB’s proposals. The right wing House GOP and the National Retail Federation screamed.

“The rules were needed then,” when a prior NLRB first proposed them in 2011 “and they are still needed now,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.

“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. These rules are an important step in the right direction.”

“Taken together, the rules would help stop companies from abusing the legal process to stall election votes, as many do now,” Teamsters President James Hoffa added. “Workers for too long have been forced to endure unnecessary delays when they have tried to start a union. “We urge the NLRB to move forward with these changes so hard-working Americans can organize and better provide for their families.”

“The proposals” will let the board “more effectively administer” labor law, NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce said. “The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking presents a number of changes to representation case procedures aimed at modernizing processes, enhancing transparency and eliminating unnecessary litigation and delay.”

The board OK’d similar rules in 2011, but the GOP-named majority on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed them out after business groups sued. The judges said the board then lacked a quorum. It has five confirmed members, and a quorum, now.

Unions and many lawmakers say that the real reason the right wingers oppose the rules changes is that they see it as a backdoor attempt by the NLRB and the Obama administration to enact many of the features of the Employee Free Choice Act which was killed several years ago by GOP filibusters.

That law, like the rules changes enacted by the NLRN, would speed up the elections process and curb employer abuses. In addition, the EFCA would have recognized a union as the representative of a workforce as son as the majority of workers in a bargaining unit signed pledge cards indicating they wanted union representation.

Addressing problems with the current union election process, Pearce said, “Unnecessary delay and inefficiencies hurt both employees and employers, These proposals are intended to improve the process for all parties, in all cases, whether non-union employees are seeking a union to represent them or unionized employees are seeking to decertify a union. We look forward to further exchange of ideas to improve the processes” to benefit workers, firms and the U.S.

The board wants to let unions and businesses send documents, including recognition election petitions, electronically, “streamline pre- and post-election procedures to facilitate agreement and eliminate unnecessary litigation.” It wants to add phone numbers and e-mail addresses to eligible voter lists, called Excelsior lists, firms must turn over, via the board, to unions filing the required number of signatures.

The NLRB also wants to “consolidate all election-related appeals to the board into a single post-election appeals process.” Right now, firms delay union recognition elections by filing challenges to who can vote, when the vote can occur and other details. They then take their complaints to the board and the federal courts.

In the meantime, employers can stall the elections and get months – or years – to conduct vicious and often-illegal anti-union campaigns. The NLRB’s proposal would potentially reduce that time. And it prompted the GOP and retailers’ screams.

The radical right GOP majority on the House Education and the Workforce Committee promptly denounced “ambush elections.” It said it would haul the NLRB before the committee on March 5. The retailers launched a PR blitz against the proposed rules. Meanwhile, the board set an April 7 deadline for written comments on them and said it would hold public hearings on the proposals that week, too.

Photo: At a June rally in support of EFCA. Flickr.



Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.