White House threatens veto to protect NLRB's union election rule

The White House has threatened to veto legislation that would overturn a rule from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) aimed at speeding up union elections. 

Republicans say the rule doesn't give companies enough time to prepare for union elections and are pushing a resolution of disapproval to scrap it. 

But the Obama administration defended the NLRB rule as “commonsense” and said it would “ensure that workers deciding if they wish to be represented by a union have a fair vote in a reasonable amount of time.”

"If the president is presented with a Resolution of Disapproval that would reverse these measures adopted by the NLRB, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the Resolution," the administration said Monday in a statement of policy.

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The Senate reserved two hours on Monday of debate on the disapproval resolution after Republicans collected 45 signatures on the resolution that moved it out of committee. 

Unions have backed the NLRB rule, saying it will streamline a burdensome election process that can often stop workers from voting on forming a union.

Business groups, however, argue the rule would limit employers’ free-speech rights when it comes to union elections and have argued it could hurt job growth.

In remarks on the Senate floor on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) urged members of the chamber to vote down the resolution overturning the rule.

"I can't imagine why my Republican colleagues would oppose such a worthy piece of legislation," Reid said. "I'm hopeful, I'm somewhat confident they won't."

In response, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the NLRB rule restricts "an employer's ability to educate workers about unionization efforts, as well as increase their legal bills and the already high cost of complying with federal regulations."


During the debate over the resolution, Senate Republicans worked to peg the the rule as an attempt to "ambush" employers. 

"The ambush-election rule disregards the rights of small businesses and employers across the country," Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said, adding the rule effectively "silences" employers across the country. 

"As I've stated throughout the debate, the National Labor Relations Board's ambush-election rule is an attempt to stack the odds against American employers, particularly small businesses that don't have a specialist in that area or in-house counsel," Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said on the floor. "Most small businesses I know can't afford either of those."

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), in defending the rule, said that the entire debate was a waste of time. 

"When you have a Democratic president in, the NLRB gets attacked by Republicans. When you have a Republican president in, it gets attacked by Democrats and it becomes a kind of political football. I understand that, and we should understand that that's what this is."

— Updated at 3:54 p.m.