House Republicans are moving to block President Obama’s top labor arbiter from implementing new union election rules that would give labor groups an advantage in unionization campaigns.
Rep. Bradley Byrne (R., Ala.) told the House Subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on Tuesday that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) would "radically alter" the labor landscape through regulation rather than legislation. Byrne and congressional Republicans are employing the Congressional Review Act to attempt to block the NLRB from implementing changes they say are contrary to the law passed by Congress.
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"The Board’s real goal is to dramatically tilt the outcome of elections in favor of union leaders by ambushing employers and workers without allowing them to fully understand their decision. The American people are on the losing end of the Board’s extreme culture of union favoritism," he said.
Typical union elections take place five to six weeks after a union files a petition with the NLRB, which oversees the voting process. The NLRB’s proposal, dubbed the Ambush Election Rule by critics, would shorten that timeframe to as little as two weeks. This places the employer at a disadvantage, according to Glenn Taubman, an attorney with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
"The NLRB’s new ambush election rules skew the process to wholly favor unionization, while invading employees’ privacy and depriving them of their Section 7 right to choose or reject unionization in an informed and thoughtful manner," he told the subcommittee.
Unions can spend months and even years wooing employees to sign petitions for election. Employers can encounter accusations of interference if they attempt to sway the process during this time. The existing process gives them time to present workers with the potential downsides of unionization. A speedier election limits a company’s ability to make the case against organization.
Byrne said in his opening remarks that the NLRB’s actions follow a trend of executive overreach from the White House.
"The Board’s rule eviscerates the right of employers to speak freely to employees during an organizing campaign," he said in his prepared statement. "Congress amended the National Labor Relations Act to ensure employers have an opportunity to communicate with employees about union representation. Congress took this action not only to promote the voices of employers, but also to protect employee choice through a robust debate of important issues. The Board is overturning, by executive fiat, what Congress has expressly permitted by law."
Union representatives objected to Congress’ proposal to rebut the NLRB’s proposed rules. Brenda Crawford, a California nurse who helped organize a union election in 2013, testified that employers enjoy "an unbalanced ability to demand when and how an election takes place." She said that companies abuse red tape procedures to delay a vote or attempt to exclude certain workers from joining a union and alleged that such abuses led employees at her company to reject unionization. The most important change from the NLRB would give unions access to personal contact information of employees voting in an election, according to Crawford.
"The Company was able to manipulate the election procedure to delay the election date, and could communicate with the workers in a ways the Union could not," she said in her prepared remarks. "These advantages make it very doubtful that the election results were an accurate reflection of the [nurse’s] desire to join together to collectively bargain with our employer."
Taubman, who has represented hundreds of workers before the NLRB, said that the NLRB’s proposal represents an invasion of privacy and will subject them to harassment and potential intimidation from union organizers.
"The ambush election rules mandate a serious invasion of employees’ privacy. The rules force employers to disclose to unions their employees’ names, personal private home or cell phone numbers, personal email addresses, and work schedules," he said, according to prepared remarks. "While Congress has mandated "Do Not Call" lists and other consumer protections against SPAM and internet abuse, the Board has refused to apply those principles here, and refuses to allow employees to opt out of the forced disclosure of their personal information."
The NLRB’s election rules are expected to be adopted later this year. Congress’ attempts to block them remain at the committee level.