With so-called "card check" legislation effectively dead with little (if any) hope for resuscitation, attention now turns to the newest battle brewing between labor unions and industry/business interests: "quickie" (or "snap") union elections.

On June 21, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) proposed reforms of the procedures it follows prior and subsequent to conducting secret ballot elections to determine if employees wish to be represented by unions for collective bargaining purposes. As expected, labor advocates have endorsed the proposed amendments while various industry and business groups – led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and others – have countered with staunch opposition. Here are some of the proposed changes:

  • Under current rules, most (roughly 95%) union elections take place within two months after a union gathers enough signatures for workers at a particular site to file a petition. According to a 2008 NLRB study, it takes an average of 57 days for workers to vote on joining a union after presenting a petition asking for a vote. The NLRB proposal would shorten that time frame, requiring elections to be held in as little as 10 to 21 days after an organizing petition is filed. NLRB says this will "reduce unnecessary litigation"; NAM counters that the proposal limits the time employers have to provide employees with information to help them make informed choices.
  • Employers also take issue with the provisions in NLRB's proposal that would shorten the time that employers have to submit electronic lists of employees to labor unions before an election from 7 days to 2 days.
  • Currently, the NLRB itself is required to decide most post-election disputes. Under the proposed changes, NLRB would have the discretion to deny review of post-election rulings, instead permitting career Regional Directors to make final decisions.

The NLRB is accepting public comments on the proposal in two ways: through a public Board hearing scheduled for July 18-19, and through a 60-day period for written comments, with 14 days for replies.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out – the NLRB already is taking heat from Congress on its move to block the opening of a non-union Boeing facility in South Carolina, a decision that even President Obama's Commerce Secretary nominee – John Bryson – has criticized. I think things are going to get a lot hotter in Washington this summer.


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