House passes GOP bill to block 'draconian' union election rule

The House passed legislation Wednesday to block a proposed rule by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that would speed up union elections.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, passed the chamber 235-188. Only six Democrats voted for it, while eight Republicans voted against it.

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Earlier in the day, the NLRB voted to move forward on portions of the proposed rule, but not those that would speed up union elections. Republicans have said the NLRB's proposed union election rule would leave as little as 10 days to a union election after a petition is first filed, and argued on the floor today that the proposal needs to be stopped.

"Let's get something straight," Kline said. "The board's scheme isn't about modernizing the election process. This is a draconian effort to stifle employer speech and ambush workers with a union election.

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"Less debate, less information and less opposition," Kline added. "That's big labor's approach to worker's free choice, and it's begin rapidly implemented by the activist NLRB."

Other Republicans said the proposed rule would hurt job creation. "The rogue majority of the NLRB wants to set conditions that stifle job creation and expansion," Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) said. "Job creators are terrified of the NLRB's actions to create an ambush-style election process that will prevent employees from making an informed decision."

But Democrats argued that the bill would do nothing to help create jobs, and would delay what should be a right that workers have to unionize.

"This bill seeks to frustrate workers' rights to an election, through attacking the National Labor Relations Board," Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) said. "Today workers have to wait an average of 101 days to cast a ballot in an election, 101 days to wait for union representation. How long should workers have to wait to be able to assert their fundamental rights in a democratic society, if we really believe in democracy?"

Others said the bill is a waste of time given that the Senate, which receives the bill next, is not expected to consider it at all.

"We're using the precious floor time considering a bill that attacks the rights of all American workers and has no chance of becoming law," Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) said. "That, unfortunately, is something we do week after week here."

The NLRB's proposed rule has been backed by unions but has been heavily lobbied against by business groups. Labor argues the rule will reduce delays in union elections, while business groups say the rule will give employers little time to talk to workers about unionization before they vote in a union election.

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Kline's bill would mandate that union elections be held at least 35 days after a petition is first filed. The legislation would also allow workers to choose what personal contact information they share with unions and employers during organizing drives, and void a NLRB ruling made earlier this year that allowed smaller bargaining units to form unions.

The bill follows legislation that passed the House earlier this year that would prevent the labor board from ordering a company to relocate its employment. That bill came in response to a complaint filed by the NLRB against Boeing for allegedly retaliating against union workers.

Highlighting the party split on the bill, Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), when calling for a vote on a motion to send the bill back to committee, said, "On behalf of the 99 percent, I ask for a recorded vote." The Democratic motion to return the bill to committee failed, just before the final vote.