President Obama vetoed a bill on Tuesday, March 31st that would have blocked changes in the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) process for organizing and calling for union elections starting April 14th. The 11th-hour bill, which passed along partisan lines, is a response to the NLRB’s December decision to streamline how information is passed from employers to unions among other provisions. The rule changes are expected to shorten the time it takes between formally organizing a union and the election itself. Currently the median time in-between is roughly 38 days, but these new rules could shorten it to about 25 days and possibly as little as 14 days according to legal experts. Both Republican congressional leaders and opponents cite that their position on the bill increases election fairness, although for opposite reasons.
The bill was designed to block the NLRB’s 5-member panel’s changes to the existing union-organizing process. The changes allow some required documents to be submitted electronically instead of by mail, increase information exchanges between unions and employers, and among other provisions, delay legal challenges regarding member-voter eligibility until after ballots have been cast. Strongly encouraging President Obama to reconsider his veto-threat, House Speaker John Boehner called the NLRB rule-changes, “another example of the Obama administration expanding Washington’s reach at the expense of American small businesses and workers.”
Joining other opponents of the rule changes in calling them “ambush election laws,” Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell also believes that the rules are an overreach. McConnell states, “Republicans believe workers have the right to make their own, informed choices when casting a ballot in the workplace; we don’t think powerful political bosses should rush or force that decision on them, as the ambush rule proposes.” Democrats and union leaders disagree, however, claiming that the prior NLRB rules opened opportunities for employers to drag the election process out using frivolous lawsuits as a stalling tactic, allowing a minority of employers to use the delays to “threaten and intimidate workers.”
Despite the President’s veto, the rule changes still face pending legal challenges. The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, a quartet of business groups headed by the Chamber of Commerce, filed a federal lawsuit in January in response to the NLRB’s decision. In addition, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Texas, and Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Texas, also filed a similar suit in that state’s U.S. district court shortly thereafter. The Texas complaint cites that, “the new rule makes sweeping changes in pre-election and post-election procedures that depart from the plain language and legislative history of the Act and exceed the board’s statutory authority.” Despite having similar rule changes struck down in previous lawsuits, attorney Howard Bloom of the firm Jackson-Lewis believes the language in these rule changes will withstand judicial scrutiny.
Daily Caller – Connor D. Wolf
The Hill – Tim Devaney
Wall Street Journal– Melanie Trottman
Yahoo News/Reuters – Daniel Wiessner