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NLRB Passes Union Election Speed-Up Rule

I forgot to circle back around to this. In my story yesterday on the settlement in the Boeing/NLRB dispute, I mentioned that the NLRB planned a vote on a scaled-back proposal to speed up union elections and reduce the endless delays and intimidation that has characterized how management handles them. There was some question as to whether Brian Hayes, the lone Republican member of the NLRB (there are supposed to be five commissioners, but right now there are only three because of vacancies, and only 1 Republican), had threatened to either stay away from the meeting or quit the panel altogether to block the vote. But in the end, he showed up and voted no, and the rule passed.

The National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday tentatively approved proposals that would speed up unionization elections, a move that labor leaders say will help unions sign up more members but that employer groups oppose.

The proposed rules, which face one more vote before they are final, are intended to reduce the average amount of time to hold unionization elections and campaigns to under 21 days, down from the current median of 38. They would, for example, require employers to postpone their legal challenges to elections until after the workers vote. Under current procedures, such challenges are often filed before votes are cast and can end up delaying the balloting for weeks or months.

The House of Representatives, on the same day, voted to basically block the NLRB rules and force a 35-day waiting period in advance of union elections. This obviously gives time for management to bully and intimidate their employees into voting against unionization. But like a long list of House-passed bills, it’s likely to stall in the Senate.

Sadly, this is probably the last major NLRB ruling for a long time. As I said, there are currently only three members on the panel, barely enough for the quorum needed to issue rulings. Craig Becker, who was recess-appointed back in 2010, sees his term expire at the end of the year. And all Republicans in the Senate have to do is refuse to confirm anyone for the NLRB to effectively shut down. The President could pursue a recess appointment, but lately the Senate has inexplicably been allowing pro forma sessions to block recess appointments. The President still has the Constitutional power to adjourn Congress whenever he wishes if he wants to perform recess appointments, but this hasn’t happened yet. And if it doesn’t, the main federal agency tasked with labor/management relations will go into hibernation.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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