- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The House Education and the Workforce Committee on Wednesday passed another bill designed to curb the power of the National Labor Relations Board.

The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, introduced earlier this month by Rep. John Kline, would strike down multiple NLRB rulings, most prominently one on the timing of union elections.

H.R. 3094 passed 23-16 on a straight party-line vote and is expected to go to the House floor for a vote sometime this winter. The prospects for passage in the Democratic-led Senate are poor.

“Big Labor has turned to an NLRB that is all too eager to advance their extreme agenda,” Mr. Kline, Minnesota Republican and the panel’s chairman, said in a statement. “Labor policies that have served our nation well for years are being torn down in a desperate effort to expand the power of union leaders.”

The House, led by a unified group of Republicans that is pushing back against the NLRB, already passed a bill to prevent the board from blocking companies from relocating, designed to combat an NLRB ruling earlier this year that the Boeing Co. was violating the law by adding a plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state.

“There was an onslaught out of the NLRB this summer in regulations,” Mr. Kline said.

Democrats denounced the bill but are fairly powerless in the House. Rep. Lynn C. Woolsey, California Democrat, accused the Republicans of trying to “undermine” the NLRB.

“Shame on us,” she said. “This is a perfect example of misguided obsession.”

Rep. George Miller of California, the panel’s ranking Democrat, added about the bill during Wednesday’s hearing, “I don’t think it sounds like fairness to anyone out there in the workplace,”

This latest fight is over what Republicans call “quickie elections” on workplace unionization. Republicans want workers to have more time to consider and make an informed decision on whether to unionize, but Democrats say too much time gives employers more opportunities to discourage them from organizing.

In June, the NLRB proposed to speed up union elections by allowing them to happen as soon as 10 days after a petition is filed; the current average is about 35 days.

Labor backers say the move will correct a long-standing tilt in labor laws that has led to a long-term decline in private-sector union membership rates for U.S. workers.

“This bill clearly encourages delays in the ability of workers to have a say in what’s going on in the workplace,” said Rep. Mazie K. Hirono, Hawaii Democrat.

Mr. Kline’s bill would give companies a minimum of 35 days after a petition is filed before a vote can be held. It also would give them a minimum of 14 days before any pre-election hearing if there are issues surrounding the election on which the company and the union cannot agree.

“You want the employees to have time to hear the debate, hear both sides, and make an informed decision. That doesn’t give them that,” Mr. Kline said. “That’s a big decision. You need more time to do it.”

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