In one of his first clashes with the new Republican-dominated Congress over labor policy, President Obama vetoed a GOP-backed resolution Tuesday that would halt a National Labor Relations Board rule making it easier for workers to hold so-called “ambush” union-organizing elections.
It was Mr. Obama’s second veto since Republicans took control of the Senate in January, following his rejection in February of a measure that would have expedited the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The president said the congressional action would block “modest but overdue reforms to simplify” union elections.
“Because this resolution seeks to undermine a streamlined democratic process that allows American workers to freely choose to make their voices heard, I cannot support it,” he said.
Speaker John A. Boehner blasted the president’s move, and Republican leaders swiftly vowed to try to overturn Mr. Obama’s veto.
“The NLRB’s ambush election rule is an assault on the rights and privacy protections of American workers,” the Ohio Republican said. “With his veto, the president has once again put the interests of his political allies ahead of the small-business owners and hardworking Americans who create jobs and build a stronger economy.”
The Senate earlier this month voted 53-46 to pass the resolution. Senate Republicans said they will hold a vote on overriding Mr. Obama’s veto sometime in April, although it’s unlikely they’ll muster the two-thirds’ supermajority needed to win the showdown with the White House.
“The president’s partisan veto will further empower powerful political bosses at the expense of the rights of middle-class workers,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “Republicans believe workers have the right to make their own, informed choices when casting a ballot in the workplace; we don’t think powerful political bosses should rush or force that decision on them, as the ambush rule proposes.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has called the GOP legislation “a direct attack on workers and their right to be heard in the workplace.”
Republicans and leading business lobbies say the NLRB rule would permit “ambush” elections which give employers little time to make a counterargument to their employees after learning of an organizing drive. Union leaders counter that employers have been guilty of legal and regulatory delaying tactics that effectively deny workers a chance for a timely vote on whether to organize.
The NLRB regulation simplifies and streamlines the process by which workers vote on whether to join a union. The rule pushed by Democrats on the board allows some documents to be filed electronically instead of by mail, and delays legal challenges from employers until after workers cast ballots.
Lawmakers used a “joint resolution of disapproval” to overturn the regulatory action, a relatively rare move. Mr. Obama’s veto is technically referred to as a “memorandum of disapproval” that negates the congressional resolution.
Mr. Obama also announced he will hold a summit in the fall on workers’ rights.
“Folks at the very top are doing very well,” Mr. Obama said. “Middle-class families and folks trying to work their way into the middle class still have some big difficulties.”
He said his administration wants to ensure that “we give workers the capacity to have their voices heard, to have some influence in the workplace, to make sure that they’re partners in building up the U.S. economy.”