The House on Wednesday approved a bill designed to rein in the National Labor Relations Board in what GOP critics of the board said was an effort to stop the "rogue" agency from rewriting federal labor law to increase the ability of unions to organize a work site.
The rebuke was issued on the same day that the NLRB, an independent agency dominated by President Obama's appointees, voted 2-1 to advance a measure for unions to hold expedited elections in as few as 10 days after a petition to organize is filed. A final vote from the board is likely to be taken next month.
Mr. Obama's two appointees to the board supported the measure, while the lone Republican appointee, Brian Hayes, voted against.
Labor unions, a key political bloc for Mr. Obama, say employers have exploited current practices to delay organizing votes indefinitely and intimidate workers. Business groups say the NLRB changes will lead to "ambush elections" and sharply restrict their ability to make the case to their employees against forming a union.
The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, introduced in October by Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, Minnesota Republican, would shoot down the NLRB resolution, requiring a minimum of 35 days before a vote can be taken.
After defeating a string of Democratic amendments designed to weaken the measure, the House voted 235-188 Wednesday evening to approve the bill. Eight Republicans voted against the bill, while six Democrats supported it.
"Imagine voting on the president of the United States in 10 days," said Rep. David P. Roe, Tennessee Republican, during Wednesday's floor debate.
"The board seems utterly determined to finalize this flawed proposal, regardless of the damage to the integrity of the board and our workplaces," he said. "Rest assured, we in Congress will continue to use every tool at our disposal to safeguard the rights of workers and employers."
But House Democrats charged that employers have used delaying tactics so often that in many cases, the vote on whether to join the union is never held.
"Really, [the bill] should be called the 'Election Prevention Act,' " said Rep. Donald M. Payne, New Jersey Democrat.
"We need to create ways for workers to join unions," added Rep. Lynn C. Woolsey, California Democrat, "not prevent them."
NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce released the final details of his proposal on Tuesday, saying the rule would affect only a small minority of organizing battles.
"The vast majority of NLRB-supervised elections, about 90 percent, are held by agreement of the parties - employees, union and employer - in an average of 38 days from the filing of a petition," he said. "The amendments I propose would not affect those agreed-to elections.
"Rather, the amendments would apply to the minority of elections which are held up by needless litigation and disputes which need not be resolved prior to an election," he continued. "In these contested elections, employees have to wait an average of 101 days to cast a ballot."
In addition to giving employees more time to decide, Mr. Kline's bill also would require at least 14 days before a pre-election hearing is held - compared to the NLRB's seven-day rule - so employers have more time to find legal counsel and build their case.
"This is an important decision," said Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, "not only in the lives of the employees, but also for the employers."
The NLRB also has discussed easing curbs on multiple unions, known as "micro-unions," that represent different divisions within each company. The House bill would prohibit them.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican, introduced a similar measure in the Senate last month. But the measure faces tough odds in passing the Democratic-led Senate.
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Tim Devaney is a national reporter who covers business and international trade for The Washington Times. Previously, he worked for the Detroit News, Grand Rapids Press, Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News. Tim can be reached at email@example.com.
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