July 15, 2024

N.L.R.B. Rules Would Streamline Unionizing

The labor board wants to tighten up the process by ensuring that employers, employees and unions receive needed information sooner and by delaying litigation over many voter-eligibility issues until after workers vote on whether to unionize.

The labor board’s news release and fact sheet did not explain how many days the election process might be shortened as a result of the proposed regulations, on which the public will have 75 days to comment.

Unions have long complained that it takes too many weeks from when they petition for an election to when a secret-ballot election is held. They say the process gives management too much time to mount an aggressive antiunion campaign with videos and one-and-one sessions with workers.

According to the N.L.R.B., the average amount of time it took from petition to election in 2008 was 57 days.

American companies have repeatedly opposed any effort to shorten the period from petition to vote, saying that would make it harder for managers to tell workers about the disadvantages of unionizing and to ensure that workers gets both sides of the story.

The board said its steps announced Tuesday “are intended to reduce unnecessary litigation, streamline pre- and postelection procedures and facilitate the use of electronic communications and document filing.”

N.L.R.B. officials say they are not mandating any specific timetable for an election. Nonetheless, Republicans — many of whom are livid with the labor board for accusing Boeing of acting illegally by opening a plant in South Carolina — are expected to attack the board’s proposed rulemaking, saying it shows yet again that President Obama’s N.L.R.B. is doing favors for organized labor.

The board says such rulemaking is a common part of its 75-year history. “It is fair to predict that the new proposals will be controversial,” the board’s chairwoman, Wilma B. Liebman, said in a statement. “That controversy is unfortunate, but it is not a good reason for the board to abandon its responsibilities.”

The board’s most recent annual report says that 1,619 unionization elections were held in fiscal year 2009, with unions winning 63.8 percent of them. Business groups say that such a high winning percentage refutes labor’s claims that the process is unfair. But union officials assert that if the election process were not so skewed and unfair, that percentage would be far higher and they would be pushing to hold many more elections, perhaps helping to reverse organized labor’s decline.

In an article about the N.L.R.B., Samuel Estreicher, a law professor at New York University, noted that unions considered the time between petition and election a problem “because employee interest in collective representation can wane and dissipate simply by the passage of time.”

In one important specific change, the labor board will seek to avoid election delays by deferring a common form of litigation in which companies argue that some employees should not vote because they should be considered supervisors. Challenges to voter eligibility can often delay elections for several weeks. Under the proposed regulations, such litigation would generally be deferred until after the election.

“One of the most important duties of the N.L.R.B. is conducting secret-ballot elections to determine whether employees want to be represented by a labor union,” Ms. Liebman said. “Resolving representation questions quickly, fairly, and accurately has been an overriding goal of American labor law for more than 75 years.”

In a move that board officials say will make it easier for employees, employers and unions, the labor board proposes to allow petitions and other election documents to be filed electronically. Under federal rules, signatures of at least 30 percent of a workplace’s employees are needed to petition for a unionization election.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=0542f46f731ca4efe483fa39643736ee

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