Republicans, labor experts criticize NLRB for pushing ‘ambush election’ rule

March 5, 2014

House Republicans and labor experts criticized the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for proposing election rules that favor unions during a Wednesday hearing before the House Education and Workforce Committee.

Committee Chairman John Kline (R., Minn.) said the NLRB abdicated its role as an objective labor arbiter to impose a pro-union ideology after publishing new unionization guidelines in February that would allow for "ambush elections."

Election rules typically provide employers a 25-day waiting period for holding elections after petitions have been filed. The NLRB proposal would cut down on the waiting period, as well as remove several administrative steps to elections.

"The board revived its deeply misguided rule in the desperate hope it will lead to more union members," Kline said.

The House attempted to block ambush elections when they were first proposed by the NLRB in 2011, but its bill died in the Democratic Senate. Kline said the legislation would prevent pro-union rules that "stifle employers’ free speech and cripple workers’ free choice."

"Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the [Democratic] Senate refused to defend our struggling workforce," Kline said. "This failure to act gave the Obama labor board a green light to continue its assault on America’s workplaces."

The committee heard from labor attorneys and business owners, who testified that the NLRB’s proposed rules would tilt the scales of the election process in favor of labor organizers, who often spend months campaigning to unionize a workplace before they gather the petition signatures necessary to propose an NLRB-sanctioned vote.

Steven Browne, a human resources director for the LaRosa’s pizzeria chain, told the committee that speeding up the election process means that union opponents have less time to debate the merits of unionization, giving workers a one-sided understanding of the issue.

"[The] ambush election rule will fundamentally and needlessly alter the delicate balance that exists in current law that provides for the opportunity for an employee to make an educated and informed decision to form, join, or refrain from joining a labor organization," Browne said. "If adopted, the proposed regulation would severely hamper an employer’s right to exercise free speech during union organizing campaigns and cripple the ability of employees to learn the employer’s perspective on the impact of collective bargaining in the workplace."

Labor lawyers contested that characterization of the law.

Caren Spencer, an attorney with Weinberg, Roger, and Rosenfeld, testified that the law was about removing administrative red tape and reducing costs to the government, company, and union.

"The proposed rules will unquestionably reduce the number of days between the filing of a petition and an election, and provide more fairness and certainty to the process," she said in prepared remarks. "The proposed rules reduce unnecessary delay, simplify the procedure, and permit the parties to seek board review after the election."

Doreen Davis, a labor attorney at Jones Day, said that rather than reducing legal challenges and fostering simple elections, the ambush election would lead to more labor disputes.

"The proposed rules evidence poor public policy and are likely to exacerbate, rather than alleviate, labor tension between employers and employees," she said.

Davis also disputed the NLRB’s attempt to enact major reforms through regulation, rather than allowing the legislature to alter the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

"The NLRB’s proposed rule changes are in excess of the board’s rulemaking authority, are substantively unnecessary, and are contrary to the NLRA," she said.

Published under: NLRB , Unions