GOP talks union election rule with NLRB chief

Republican lawmakers on Thursday asked the head of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to delay a controversial rule that would speed up union elections.

House Republicans, who oppose the rule and say it should be withdrawn, sat down with NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce on Thursday to discuss it.

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House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) said he had a productive conversation with Pearce and shared his frustrations with the agency's decision to revive the rule.

Kline asked the NLRB to extend the comment period on the rule by at least one month. The current deadline is April 7, unless the agency pushes it back. During that week, the agency will also hold a public hearing on the proposal.

"We had a chance to express our concerns," Kline said in an interview after the closed-door meeting.

Pearce declined to comment during a brief interview as he was walking out of the meeting.

The NLRB resurrected the union election rule on Feb. 5, more than a year after a previous version of the rule was struck down in court.

Kline, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the NLRB during the Obama administration, wrote to Pearce to request a meeting, which happened Thursday afternoon in one of Kline's subcommittee offices.

Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) was also in the meeting, as were several Republican and NLRB staffers.

Labor groups say the election rule would prevent unnecessary delays that slow down the voting process during union elections. But Republicans fear it would allow unions to "ambush" employers and leave employees without enough time to make an informed decision.

Kline maintains that the rule is "fundamentally flawed," and is considering taking legislative action if the NLRB continues to move forward with it.

During the meeting, he asked Pearce to extend the comment period. The current deadline is April 7, unless the agency pushes it back.

The board is currently considering two specialty healthcare cases, after which NLRB General Counsel Richard Griffin has said he will issue guidance on the matter. This could affect the union election rule, so Kline asked Gaston to give the public time to consider all the facts by extending the comment period for at least 30 days after the guidance is issued.

A federal court invalidated the original rule because the NLRB made it without a full quorum, but the agency is trying again now that it has a fully functioning board for the first time under President Obama.



Kline acknowledged that the NLRB's second attempt at the rule is on stronger legal footing because of the quorum.

"That doesn't mean it's not still partisan, it doesn't mean there's enough time for employees to make a decision, it doesn't mean it's a good policy," Kline said Thursday. 

— This story was updated at 7:35 p.m.