House votes to scrap union election rule, defying veto threat

House votes to scrap union election rule, defying veto threat
© Getty Images

The House voted Thursday to scrap a rule from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that would speed up union elections.

A resolution doing away with what Republicans refer to as the “ambush election” rule passed the House in a 232-186 vote, sending the measure to President Obama's desk. The White House has promised Obama will veto it.

The GOP turned to the Congressional Review Act to roll back the election rule, which they have denounced as an attempt to help labor unions surprise employers with organizing drives.

“This is like March Madness,” Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), one of the sponsors of the bill, told The Hill. “We expect referees to be fair in the games we play, but the NLRB is not fair."

Under the seldom-used Congressional Review Act, lawmakers can block any regulation they disapprove of from going into effect.

Going forward, Republicans could use the process to target other controversial regulations from the Obama administration, Roe said.

Other Republicans have suggested they may use the Congressional Review Act to go after controversial regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), such as a rule that critics say would put coal power plants out of business.

“I think you’ll see more of that,” Roe said.

This is just the second time in history both chambers of Congress have approved a disapproval resolution under the Congressional Review Act. In 2001, Republicans buried a controversial labor rule from the outgoing Clinton administration.

With President Obama still in office, Republicans likely won’t have much luck this time around. 

While the Senate voted 53-46 to pass the resolution, that is 14 votes shy of the total needed to override Obama's veto.

Despite the likely veto, top Republicans say it's important to challenge President Obama’s labor policies in the court of public opinion.

The move could put “pressure” on the National Labor Relations Board to back down, Roe said. He pointed to the agency’s bout with Boeing Co. a few years ago as an example. 

At the time, the NLRB claimed Boeing was retaliating against Washington state workers for striking by going out of state to build a new plant in South Carolina. Boeing said the NLRB’s actions would have forced them to shut down the new plant in Charleston, but the agency eventually retreated.

“Look at what the NLRB tried to do to Boeing,” he said. “We put pressure on them and it changed.”

Now the labor board is coming under fire for the union election rule.

On average, it takes 38 days after a petition is filed with the NLRB for a union election to take place, but Republicans say the new rule could speed up the process to as few as 11 days.

“The union can plan for weeks, even months, in advance and the owner has to scramble to catch up,” said Elizabeth Milito, senior legal counsel of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

Democrats and labor groups argue the rule would prevent businesses from needlessly delaying union elections.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the Republicans’ attempt to block the union election rule a “direct attack on workers."

“This is interference to the highest degree,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) told The Hill.

The so-called “ambush election" rule was previously struck down in federal court for procedural reasons. But the NLRB reintroduced it last year with the ruling it mind.

Several business groups are challenging the rule again in court.

In January, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, National Retail Federation and other business groups filed a lawsuit against the NLRB over the rule.

On Thursday, many of these business groups labeled the union election rule a “key vote” by which it would judge lawmakers and advise members to vote in future elections.

“The NLRB’s rule is not about efficiency, but rather a naked attempt by the board to tip the scales in favor of union organizing,” said David French, senior vice president at the National Retail Federation.