Washington — The National Labor Relations Board issued a final rule on Friday aimed at modernizing and streamlining the union election process.
The new rule will shorten the time between when an election is ordered and the election is held, eliminating a previous 25-day waiting period. And it seeks to reduce litigation that can be used to stall elections. It will also require employers to furnish union organizers with email addresses and phone numbers of workers.
The changes are a win for unions, which have long complained the process is too long. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the NLRB’s “modest but important reforms” will help reduce delays and make it easier for workers to vote on forming a union. “Strengthening protections for workers seeking to come together and bargain collectively is critical to workers winning much-deserved wage gains and improving their lives,” he said.
But the rule, many months in the making, has generated criticism from the business community and from many Republicans.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the new rule will “hamstring employers facing organizing drives and give unions the upper hand.”
And the Retail Industry Leaders Association called it flawed and harmful. “By dramatically changing the procedures that govern union elections, the rule limits the information available to employees prior to entering the voting booth, potentially subjects employees to harassment at home and undermines the due process rights of employers,” said Kelly Kolb, the organization’s vice president for government affairs.
House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., and House Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Clair Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said in a joint statement: “After more than three years of public outcry, the Obama board is still determined to impose an ambush election scheme on our nation’s workplaces.”
National Association of Manufacturers President Jay Timmons said the rule’s “only purpose is to serve as a cudgel to bully employers into submission.”
Offering support for the rule, Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, called it “good news. It means corporate bosses will have fewer opportunities to cheat you out of your right to join together.”
The rule is set to take effect on April 14.
A similar rule was issued by the board in 2011, but it was struck down by the D.C. Circuit Court, which said the board at the time lacked a quorum to issue the rule. The present five-member board approved the rule Friday on a 3-2 vote, with all three Democrats voting yes and two Republicans voting no.
The rule is also intended to reduce litigation, including a provision that would require businesses to hold off on filing labor-related lawsuits until after a union election takes place.
On Thursday, the board ruled by the same 3-2 party breakdown that employees with access to their employer’s email system have the right to use company email for union organizing and other workplace-related activities — but only on their own time.
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