- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Republicans and business groups blasted a decision Wednesday by the politically divided National Labor Relations Board to speed up the process for employees to form unions in “ambush elections.”

Labor leaders cheered the move, but Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the Senate Labor, Education, Health and Pensions Committee, said the decision was another example of President Obama using the NLRB to advocate for liberal causes and to boost the interests of unions at the expense of management.

“Ambush elections are one more example of how the Obama National Labor Relations Board continues to be more of a union advocate than an umpire,” Mr. Alexander said in a statement, calling the move “a political power play on behalf of unions that makes an end run around employers and forces workers to make decisions without all of the facts.”

The NLRB said in a 3-2 decision released Wednesday that it was reissuing rules to shorten the time for employee elections and to require employers to provide employee phone numbers and emails to union organizers before votes.

The panel first issued the rule in 2011, but a federal judge struck it down, saying the NLRB lacked a quorum at the time. The board now is operating at full strength for the first time in Mr. Obama’s presidency.

“Unnecessary delay and inefficiencies hurt both employees and employers,” NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce said in a statement. “These proposals are intended to improve the process for all parties, in all cases, whether non-union employees are seeking a union to represent them or unionized employees are seeking to decertify a union.”

Mr. Pearce joined Democratic appointees Kent Hirozawa and Nancy Schiffer in approving the rules. Republicans Philip Miscimarra and Harry Johnson said in their dissent that shortening the time for elections would “curtail the right of employers, union and employees” before a union is formed.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka hailed the decision, saying management abused the old rules to delay organizing drives indefinitely.

“When workers petition for an NLRB election, they should receive a timely opportunity to vote,” Mr. Trumka said. “But the current NLRB election process is riddled with delay and provides too many opportunities for employers to manipulate and drag out the process through costly and unnecessary litigation and deny workers a vote.”

The National Retail Federation criticized the move but said it was not surprised by the divided board’s vote.

“What’s not new is the NLRB’s desire to support union activism over sound public policy,” said David French, senior vice president of the National Retail Federation. “The rule will limit the freedom of speech and expression of workers and businesses alike, and is part of NLRB’s coordinated campaign to tilt union elections toward their friends and allies in Big Labor.”

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, Minnesota Republican, said the ruling “will make it virtually impossible for workers to make an informed decision in union elections.”

“Just as troubling, the rule is a direct threat to the privacy of workers and their families,” said Mr. Kline, adding that his committee was planning “aggressive oversight” of “this deeply misguided rule.”

Vice President Joseph R. Biden, speaking to a conference of auto workers and other union employees in Washington, didn’t refer to the NLRB decision directly but said the administration and its allies must be “unrelenting in our fight to protect and expand collective bargaining.”

Mr. Biden criticized “these guys on the right” who oppose a minimum wage hike and favor right-to-work laws and other steps to weaken the power of unions.

“This is a concerted, full-throated, well-organized, well-financed, well-thought-out long, long-term effort — waging a war on labor’s house,” said Mr. Biden. “Because they know — not all businesses, these guys on the right — they know without you there they call every shot.”

Ben Wolfgang contributed to this report.

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