A key House Republican chairman, frustrated with what he calls a pattern of “union favoritism” by the National Labor Relations Board, said Wednesday he is stepping up efforts to roll back new rules issued by the agency.
House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, Minnesota Republican, introduced the “Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act,” yet another attempt to rein in an agency that has become a partisan flash point and an early issue in the 2012 presidential campaign.
“It’s apparent that the White House isn’t going to stand up to this,” the congressman told a small group of reporters. “In fact, argument could be made that they may be encouraging it. But we’re going to stand up to it.”
The bill, HR-3094, targets proposals from the NLRB on shorter union elections and specialty health care. A legislative hearing on the matter is scheduled for next week, and Mr. Kline expects it to get a markup soon afterward.
“There’s a lot of interest out there, because there’s growing concern across the country about what the NLRB is doing,” he said.
The House recently passed a bill to prevent the NLRB from relocating companies, which was designed to combat the NLRB’s ruling against Boeing.
“There was an onslaught out of the NLRB this summer in regulations,” Mr. Kline said.
Pressure may be getting to the NLRB. The agency is postponing a rule that would require most companies to put up a poster explaining the rights of employees to form a union. The effective date is being pushed back two months to Jan. 15 from Nov. 14.
Companies are afraid to spend and hire, Mr. Kline said, because they don’t know what the NLRB will do next.
“I’ve had companies tell me, ‘We have cash, but I’m not spending, I’m not hiring, because I don’t know what to expect,’” he said.
In June, the NLRB proposed to speed up union elections to as soon as 10 days after a petition is filed. The new rules would, in effect, make it easier and quicker for workers to form unions. But it would also give them less time to consider all the facts and make a sound decision, Mr. Kline said.
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.
“When workers petition for an election to form a union, they should actually get an election,” said John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “That’s a basic tenet of democracy.”
But the board’s sole Republican nominee, Brian Hayes, said the proposal would produce “quickie elections” that give companies little time to prepare their case against forming a union.
Mr. Kline called it “unreasonable” that companies would have just seven days to find a legal team and build their case.
“If you’re a small company, you can’t deal with this,” he said. “They don’t have the ability to deal with this thing, and they know it.”
Mr. Kline’s bill would give companies a minimum of 35 days after a petition is filed before a vote can be held. It would also give them a minimum of 14 days before any pre-election hearing, if there are issues surrounding the election that companies and unions cannot agree on.
“You want the employees to have time to hear the debate, hear both sides, and make an informed decisions. That doesn’t give them that,” Mr. Kline said. “That’s a big decision; you need more time to do it.”