Business, labor groups gird for vote on controversial NLRB union election rule

Business groups and unions are bracing for congressional action on the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) union election rule.

Those in business and labor are expecting a vote in the Senate, perhaps as early as next week, on a joint resolution for congressional disapproval that would block the regulation. A Senate Republican leadership aide told The Hill that a vote on the measure was expected sometime over the next two weeks.

ADVERTISEMENT
That will likely step up lobbying on the proposal. On Thursday, the AFL-CIO sent a letter to senators urging them to vote against the joint resolution.

"The new NLRB rule makes modest, sensible changes to bring balance to the election process. A vote against the Resolution will ensure that the rights of working people to achieve economic security are protected," said Bill Samuel, the labor federation's government affairs director, in the letter.

Business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce oppose the rule, which would speed up union elections. Glenn Spencer, vice president of the Chamber’s Workforce Freedom Initiative, has said in the past that a vote on the joint resolution is likely the most significant labor vote this congressional session.

“This vote is coming soon, and it’s the Senate's opportunity to tell the board that it has gone too far,” Spencer told The Hill.

Business groups have said the rule would limit employers’ free speech rights when it comes to union elections. They have argued that could end up hurting job growth.

Unions have backed the rule, saying it will streamline a burdensome process that can often stop workers from voting in a union election. In his letter, Samuel said the rule would reduce litigation and ensure “a fair vote” for workers.

“The NLRB’s new rule eliminates many of the barriers workers now face by reducing current delays, eliminating frivolous and duplicative litigation, and ensuring that workers have a fair vote in a reasonable period of time,” Samuel said.

Forty-five Republican senators are backing the joint resolution so far, with Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), ranking member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, as its main sponsor. The only two GOP senators not to sign onto the joint resolution are Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).

Centrist Democratic senators — such as Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) — will also likely attract lobbyists' attention as the vote draws near.

Michael Eastman, the Chamber's executive director for labor law policy, said the Chamber and other business groups have been actively lobbying the issue, including engaging their grassroots network.

“As with most labor issues, we are focusing attention on those members with a more moderate record,” Eastman said.

Under the Congressional Review Act, the joint resolution cannot be filibustered and can pass the Senate with a simple majority of 51 votes.

Despite not needing 60 votes in the Senate, it is still a difficult road forward for the joint resolution since it will need Democratic votes to pass. Further, to overturn the rule, the joint resolution would have to be signed by President Obama, who has received labor backing for his reelection bid, after it had passed in both the House and the Senate.

Other legislative efforts to stop the rule have not made headway. Last year, the House passed separate legislation to block the rule but that has not moved forward yet in the Senate.