Labor board suspends rule on union elections

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) suspended implementation on Tuesday of a rule that would speed up union elections.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg struck down the regulation. In his ruling, the judge said the labor board only had two members vote on the final rule in December 2011 when it needed three members to form a quorum.

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In the wake of the court decision, the agency is temporarily suspending the rule's implementation, which went into effect on April 30. Further, Lafe Solomon, the NLRB's acting general counsel, withdrew guidance he sent to the labor board's regional offices and told those offices to follow the old union election rule instead.

The agency is still considering its response to the court ruling. 

"We continue to believe that the amendments represent a significant improvement in our process and serve the public interest by eliminating unnecessary litigation," said NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce. "We are determined to move forward."

Unions have criticized the decision.

“We think the judge’s ruling is flat-out wrong,” said AFL-CIO General Counsel Lynn Rhinehart in a blog post Monday. “The judge’s ruling, while in our view incorrect, is solely based on technical issues that speak to the procedure of the board and not the rule itself.”

In turn, business groups, which have sued to stop the rule, are pleased by the judge’s decision.

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“The Chamber has argued that the new rule would have made it significantly more difficult for employers, especially small employers, to respond to union campaigns by shortening the time period for union elections and thereby depriving employers of a fair opportunity to explain to employees the costs of unionization,” said Robin Conrad and Randy Johnson with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a blog post Monday.

The Chamber is a party to the lawsuit.

Boasberg said his ruling was not made on the rule’s merits and that the agency could vote again to pass it if it has a quorum in place.