Bloomberg News

Speedy Union Elections by NLRB Curbed by Republican Measure

October 05, 2011

(Adds Boeing case in fourth paragraph.)

Oct. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Speedier union elections proposed by the National Labor Relations Board would be curbed by legislation from Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican who leads the committee that oversees labor policy.

Votes by employees to form a union couldn’t be conducted held until at least 35 days after an election is requested, Kline, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said today. The board’s Republican said the proposal will force votes in 10 to 21 days, giving companies less time to talk with workers.

“You want employees to have time to hear both sides,” Kline said today during at a meeting with reporters in Washington. “The legislation says you have to wait at least 35 days before an election.”

Kline is among Republicans seeking to curtail the agency’s power after the board in April said Chicago-based Boeing Co. violated workers’ rights by building a plant for its 787 Dreamliner aircraft in South Carolina instead of at its Seattle- area hub.

The board said Boeing’s decision was retaliation for employee strikes in Washington state. In the charge filed by the NLRB’s general counsel, the board said as a remedy Boeing should add a second assembly line in the Seattle area to make its 787 Dreamliner.

‘Unnecessary Barriers’

The board’s June 21 proposal on union elections is aimed at removing “unnecessary barriers,” and was issued after union complaints about delays in elections. The median time to complete an election is 38 days, according to the agency.

Republican board member Brian Hayes said the proposal means elections may occur as soon as 10 days, which would “effectively eviscerate” an employer’s ability to communicate with employees, according to his dissent. The board voted 3-1 for the rule.

Kline’s bill would set hearings on a petition for an election after 14 days. Such hearings are scheduled when the employees and employer are unable to reach a voluntary agreement on recognizing a union and an NLRB election officer steps in to decide issues.

The legislation would impose requirements making it harder for smaller groups of employees to organize a union at a company. The board on Aug. 30 approved smaller collective bargaining units at health-care facilities, which business groups have said will make it easier for unions to make inroads at companies.

Unit Determination

The NLRB would have to determine before an election the group of employees appropriate for collective bargaining, according to a summary of Kline’s legislation. The bill outlines eight criteria the board must consider when determining which employees are in a unit, such as skills and training.

The Republican-led House of Representatives on Sept. 15, in response to the Boeing complaint, passed legislation barring the NLRB from ordering companies to close, move or open factories when labor laws are violated. The Obama administration in July said it opposed the bill because it would undermine U.S. labor- law enforcement. It would have to pass the Democratic-led Senate before going to President Barack Obama.

The bill is H.R. 3094.

--Editors: Steve Geimann, Larry Liebert

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Armour in Washington at sarmour@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net.


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