NLRB Under Fire for Proposed Changes to Union Election Process

Jul 19, 2011 1:49pm

ABC News' Amy Bingham reports:

Members of the business community faced off against the National Labor Relations Board again today to voice their opposition to the board’s proposed election changes.

This is the second day the board has heard testimony from business groups, union advocates and researchers about the proposed changes, which would not affect cases currently before the board.

The NLRB has caught serious flack in recent months over the highly contentious Boeing case in which the board charged that the airline manufacturing giant retaliated against unionized workers at its Washington plant by building a new manufacturing plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state.

The current rule-change controversy revolves around the board’s proposal to mandate a seven-day window between when an employer receives their employees’ petition to form a union and when the pre-election hearing is set. 

Business groups claim that one week is not enough time to process and respond to the petition, while union advocates say the shortened window prevents employers from use long wait periods to discourage employees from voting in favor of union membership.

Maurice Baskin, who testified before the board on behalf of Associated Builders and Contractors, said there is a “sense of outrage” in the business community over the proposed changes.   

“In the midst of this terrible economy the NLRB is proposing new and burdensome regulations that appear to have no purpose other than to promote union organizing,” Baskin said.

Baskin said the changes are “unlawful on their face” and “particularly offensive to small businesses” who do not have labor lawyers on staff and are often “completely at sea” when they receive a petition for union membership.

Baskin argued that seven days is not nearly enough time for employers to research their legal options, consult with a lawyer and discuss possible union membership with their employees.

“It takes months to reach the point in the federal courts that the Board now wants to reach in seven days,” Baskin said. “We submit that that’s impossible and there is no justification for that timetable.”

Elizabeth Bunn, who testified on behalf of the AFL-CIO, said employers purposefully drag out the voting process in order to scare workers away from union membership.

“Under the status quo, the employer is able to hang a sword of delay over the union,” Bunn said. “The goal is not to inform. The goal is to delay, harass, confuse and intimidate.”

She urged the board to adopt the “modest reforms” because they reduce “unproductive litigation,” allow workers and unions to communicate better, modernize the election process, create greater certainty and uniformity and allow more workers to vote in union membership elections.

Bunn said that “under the current rules, the board is hamstrung from fulfilling its mission of protecting workers who seek an election to form a union” because employers exercise too much control over the process.

The board will take online comments about the changes until Aug. 22. NLRB spokesperson Nancy Cleeland said implementing any changes would be a long process and that “the end of September would be optimistic” for any reforms to go into effect.

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