The National Labor Relations Board conducted a training seminar for its new union election rules at a New York City union office and is moving forward despite opposition from lawmakers and employers.
The NLRB, the federal government’s top labor arbiter, is distributing training materials to its regional offices, which oversee local elections. The board delivered a PowerPoint presentation on the so-called ambush election rules at the Service Employees International Union’s New York City headquarters on Thursday.
The training was conducted by three regional directors at the "Offices of 32BJ SEIU," according to a notice posted on the NLRB website.
"We encourage you to attend and network with your colleagues," the agency website says.
Labor watchdogs at Worker Center Watch (WCW) said that the union office was a fitting launch site for the new regulations.
"The agency’s complicity in the union campaign against employers has gone from onerous to egregious in a matter of months," WCW spokesman Ryan Williams said. "Business owners must fully accept that the NRLB is, indeed, working against their best interests and those of their employees."
Under the new rules, an employer must respond to any union election petition within eight calendar days excluding federal holidays—a fact that even NLRB General Counsel Richard Griffin forgot during a recent congressional hearing. The timeline for the election has also been sped up.
"The [regional director] will schedule the election for the earliest date practicable. The 25-day waiting period—to allow [the] Board to rule on a request for review—has been eliminated," according to the PowerPoint presentation, which first appeared on the Labor Union Report.
Critics say that the rules will tilt the scales of the election process in favor of unions. While unions can spend months and even years wooing workers to organize a union, employer campaigns take place after the election petition has been filed. Decreasing that timeframe chips away at employee access to balanced information about the potential impact of unionization, according to Glenn Taubman, a lawyer for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
"The evident and illegitimate purpose of the Obama NLRB’s ambush election rules is to accelerate the election process to such an extent that employers and non-union employees will be unable to respond effectively to union organizing campaigns, thereby boosting the rate at which unions win elections," he said.
Training at the SEIU office has also aroused some suspicion, as the agency’s relationship to the union has caused controversy in recent years. In September 2014, a federal judge in Pennsylvania declared that the NLRB was acting more like a union subsidiary than a labor watchdog as it investigated a Pittsburgh hospital.
"The scope and nature of the requests, coupled with the NLRB’s efforts to obtain said documents for, and on behalf of, the SEIU, arguably moves the NLRB from its investigatory function and enforcer of labor law, to serving as the litigation arm of the Union, and a co-participant in the ongoing organization effort of the Union," Judge Arthur Schwab said in a ruling.
The NLRB did not return a request for comment about why it chose to hold the session at a union office.
Business groups and lawmakers are fighting to prevent the implementation of the rule. The House and Senate approved legislation in March that would overturn the regulations. That may not be enough, however, as the Senate lacks the votes to overturn President Obama’s promised veto.
Business interests are turning to the courts to overcome the veto. The Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business are each suing the agency. Karen Harned, Executive Director of NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center said in a January press release that the courts reined in the NLRB when it tried to implement similar election rules in 2011.
"NFIB is standing up for small businesses to challenge the actions of a runaway NLRB," Harned saidin a press release announcing the suit. "The first version of this ambush election rule was already struck down by a federal court, which noted the current election process allows enough time for unions to make their case and for employers to make theirs, after which employees have the information they need to make an informed decision."