House Republicans to mark up union election bill

House Republicans plan to move forward Wednesday with legislation that would stop the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from speeding up union elections.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee will mark up two bills, including the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, which would require the NLRB to let 35 days pass after employees file a petition before they are allowed to vote on forming a union.

Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) has complained that the NLRB's union election rule would create "ambush elections," where employees vote in as little as 10 days. He says his bill, in contrast, would give businesses more time to prepare for the election and offer employees a chance to hear from both sides.

The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, introduced last month by Kline and Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), would also give employers 14 days to prepare their case, before they go before an NLRB election official, as opposed to the seven days the agency is proposing. Employers would also be allowed to raise additional concerns throughout the pre-election process.

The bill would also address issues of voter eligibility.

Separately, the committee will mark up the Employee Privacy Protection Act, also introduced by Kline and Roe. This bill would allow workers to decide what contact information is disclosed to unions, whether it be a phone number or email address. Whereas Republicans accuse the NLRB of proposing to require companies to share too much of their employees' contact information with union officials even without their permission.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee, has introduced two identical bills in the Senate, though it is not yet known whether or when they will be marked up.

"The National Labor Relations Board ought to be an umpire," Alexander said in a statement last month. "But under this administration [the NLRB] has lunged so far to the side of union advocacy that they're willing to sacrifice every worker's right to privacy and every employer's right to free speech."

This comes after the NLRB reintroduced the union election rule on Feb. 5. A federal court invalidated the original rule because the NLRB made it without a full quorum, but now the agency has a fully functioning board for the first time under the Obama administration, it is taking another shot at the rule.

Democrats and labor groups say the rule would prevent unnecessary delays that companies can use to “stall” union elections.

“These delays give unscrupulous employers time to engage in threats, coercion and intimidation of workers,” House Education and the Workforce Committee ranking member George Miller (D-Calif.) said at a hearing last month.

But the Republicans disagree. 

The committee is moving forward with the legislation, after Kline and Roe were unable to convince the NLRB to drop the union election rule during a recent meeting with NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce.

During the markup, members will have an opportunity to add amendments to the two bills. Then, they will vote on whether to send it from the committee to the House floor for a vote.