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Lawmakers Clash Over Union Election Bill (Read More…)

By Kevin Bogardus - 10/12/11

Republicans and Democrats on the House Education and the Workforce Committee clashed Wednesday over legislation that would undo recent regulations and rulings from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Introduced last week, the bill sponsored by Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), the committee’s chairman, counteracts a proposed regulation from the labor board that would speed up union elections as well as void an NLRB ruling that would allow smaller bargaining units to form unions.

At a hearing Wednesday on the bill, Kline said policies being advanced by the labor board create uncertainty for employers struggling in a stalled economy.

“The policies advanced by the NLRB are dramatically increasing the pressure and uncertainty facing business owners, making it more difficult to create jobs and plan for the future,” Kline said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has identified the labor board’s proposed rule as one of the Obama administration’s 10 most harmful regulations. Kline’s bill is expected to move quickly and will likely receive a floor vote before Congress adjourns this winter.

The legislation, known as the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, would give employers at least 14 days to prepare their case for an NLRB election officer. It would also bar union elections from being held until at least 35 days after a petition is filed.

Kline said the NLRB’s proposed union election rule could have union elections being held in as few as 10 days.

Democrats on the committee criticized the legislation, saying it would undermine workers’ rights and was a distraction from working on bills that could create jobs.

“In summary, by favoring delay at every turn, this bill denies workers their rights to a free and fair election. It’s a cynical bill that takes time away from what we should be doing,” said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the panel’s ranking member.

Business groups have lobbied heavily against both the NLRB’s proposed rule on union elections and its ruling allowing smaller bargaining units to form unions this year.

At the hearing, lawmakers heard from a number of attorneys with experience in management-labor relations, including Phillip Russell, a lawyer with Ogletree Deakins who supports Kline’s bill.

Calling it “simply unworkable,” Russell said the NLRB’s proposed union election rule would not provide enough time for workers and employers to educate themselves about what forming a union would mean.

“It’s unfair to the employees. They will not get the information they need. Employers will not get the advice and support they need,” Russell said.

GOP lawmakers hammered the labor board for its actions this year that they argued favored unions. The NLRB’s complaint against Boeing for allegedly retaliating against union workers has attracted the most scrutiny.

Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) called the NLRB “overreaching and ideologically slanted.”

“The American people should take note again that the administration is using non-elected officials to change the law of the land, bypassing your elected representatives in the Congress of the United States,” Bucshon said.

Democrats took aim at Kline’s bill instead. They said the legislation would lead to frivolous lawsuits and keep employers and workers in court for months, if not years, during union organizing campaigns.

“I would like to ask you, how many jobs do you think the so-called Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act is going to create?” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.).

Michael Hunter, a partner with Hunter, Carnahan, Shoub, Byard & Harshman who opposes Kline’s bill, responded that the legislation will increase the number of lawsuits, rather than reduce them.

“The only jobs it would create would be for people taking care of the warehouse full of paper for all the appeals that are going wind up being filed in order to prevent workers from having the opportunity to organize,” Hunter said.



Posted by Admin on 10/13 at 12:26 PM