Labor board sets hearings on union election rule

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has scheduled its first public hearing on a controversial rule that would speed up union elections.

The labor board will open its doors on April 10 and 11 to allow for comment about the new regulations. The open meeting will likely attract intense interest from business groups and unions, which clashed bitterly the last time the union election rule was issued.

In a Federal Register notice on Tuesday, the NLRB said the meeting will start at 9:30 am each day at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Persons who have previously requested to speak may share their views” on the union election rule and can “make other proposals for improving representation case procedures,” according to the notice.

Those who want to speak at the meeting must file their request with the labor board by March 10.

The original union election rule was struck down court, and the new iteration is expected to face a legal challenge as well. When the NLRB resurrected the regulation earlier this month, business group lobbyists told The Hill that they were already considering a lawsuit.

The rule would essentially streamline union elections, consolidating potential litigation to union elections; allowing parties to electronically file documents; and include telephone numbers and email addresses on voter lists so both employers and union organizers can more easily talk to workers during union drives.

The NLRB first proposed the rule in June 2011. More than 60 people spoke at the two-day open meeting in July that year on the regulation.

After controversy within the agency — one NLRB member threatened to resign over the rule — the labor board was able to finalize a slimmed-down union election rule in December 2011.

Nevertheless, the regulation was overturned in the courts in 2012 when U.S. District Judge James Boasberg struck it down on the grounds that only two board members participated in adopting it. The NLRB needs at least three members to form a quorum. Yet the judge said his decision was not made on the regulation’s merits — leaving the door open for the NLRB to try again.

The reissued rule is protected from a similar court challenge because a full slate of five NLRB members participated in the process this time. The three Democratic members on the board approved the rule while the two Republican dissented.

The rule is expected to be subject to an intense lobbying campaign by business groups, who say it runs roughshod over employer rights. Unions have cheered the regulation, arguing workers face lengthy delays when they try to organize into labor groups.