Reverse Labor Board’s Measures, Employer Advocates Tell Panel

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By Tyrone Richardson and Hassan A. Kanu

Employer advocates urged a House workforce subcommittee June 14 to consider rolling back a faster union election process and several other National Labor Relations Board moves from the Obama administration.

“The ambush election rule substantially shortens the period of time between when a representation petition is filed with the NLRB and when an election is held,” said Nancy McKeague, senior vice president at Michigan Health and Hospital Association, who spoke on behalf of the Society for Human Resource Management.

McKeague and other employer representatives told the Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions that they’re “concerned that this does not allow adequate time for employees to develop an educated” decision about creating, joining, or declining to join a union.

The hearing comes days after Republicans reintroduced a trio of bills to amend the NLRA, including the Employee Rights Act ( H.R. 2723). The measure, introduced May 25 by Rep. Phil Roe (Tenn.), would require a secret-ballot vote in every union representation election, allow nonmembers the same voting rights on collective bargaining agreements as members, and require recertification of a union every three years.

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Tim Walberg (Mich.) on June 6 reintroduced the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act ( H.R. 2776), which would undo a National Labor Relations Board decision allowing “micro units” of employees within a larger workforce to unionize and would block rules that have sped up representation election drives. A separate bill ( H.R. 2775) introduced by Rep. Joe Wilson (S.C.) would limit the worker contact information that employers must turn over to unions during an election drive.

‘Union-Busting’ or Policy Fairness?

Subcommittee Democrats at the hearing characterized the measures as “union-busting.”

“The three bills under consideration today sabotage worker’s ability to organize and collectively bargain for a better life,” the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Gregorio Sablan (MP), said.

The proposed policies are “fundamentally at odds” with the National Labor Relations Act’s “stated purposes,” he said.

Walberg defended the pieces of legislation as providing balance and fairness to federal labor policies.

It’s “not an attempt to eliminate unions,” he said.

The bills are expected to get strong Republican support in the GOP-controlled Congress. The proposed legislation will need the backing of at least eight Democrats to avoid a filibuster in the Senate, an unlikely prospect in a chamber largely divided on party lines over labor issues.

Guerino Calemine, general counsel for the Communications Workers of America, argued that the bills were “malicious” efforts to weaken labor unions.

“Deceptively short, these bills are chock-full of malicious intent to render elections absurdly undemocratic, strip workers of rights, take control of unions away from union members, drain union treasuries, and otherwise destroy labor unions,” Calemine told the panel.

Seth Borden, a partner who represents employers at McGuireWoods LLP in New York City, told the subcommittee that passage of H.R. 2776 and H.R. 2775 would be a “significant step” toward reversing “unnecessary and misguided policy changes” from the Obama administration, and “restoring the proper balance of rights and interests that had worked sufficiently for decades.”

He criticized a number of rules enacted during Obama’s administration, including the joint employer standard and the expedited-election process.

The “compressed time framework” that the expedited-elections rule allows “eats into the resources and focus that the employer has to exercise its free speech rights in whatever time frame it might have before the election,” Borden told the subcommittee.

Walberg: Offers Workers Informed Decision

Walberg said the legislation would restore power to workers to make informed decisions about whether they wish to be part of a labor union.

“The three bills we are looking at today are saying let them make their choices with the fullest information possible, as fairly as possible from both sides and not rushed, not jammed through,” he said. “The people that are truly interested are the ones who will make the decisions about what will come forward.”

Sablan said the three measures “are not just union-busting bills, they are union-elimination bills.”

“When working Americans are empowered to collectively bargain with their employers over wages and conditions of employment, productivity gains can be linked to wage growth,” he said. “However, the three bills under consideration today sabotage workers’ ability to organize and collectively bargain for a better life.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@bna.com; Hassan A. Kanu in Washington at hkanu@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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