NLRB denies Republican request to delay union election rule

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has informed two key House Republicans that it is moving forward with a controversial rule to speed up union elections without delay. 

In a letter, NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce wrote to House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) and subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) to explain that the public already has "ample time" to comment on the rule and there is no need for an additional 30-day extension, which the lawmakers had requested. [READ THE LETTER.]

Pearce reiterated the NLRB's unwavering support for the representation-case procedures rule that could speed up elections to as few as 10 days after a petition is filed. 

"As I shared with you in our discussion, the board is unanimous in its support for effective representation-case procedures," Pearce wrote in the letter, which an Education and Workforce Committee spokesperson shared with The Hill. "All members agree that there are important issues involved in this proposal."

But House Republicans have expressed concerns that the union election rule would rush the process and create what they refer to as "ambush elections," where management has little time to prepare their case.

The Republicans argue that employees deserve to hear from both sides — the unions and management — before they make their decision.

"What possible harm could come from giving the American people 30 additional days to comment on a rule that will radically transform union elections?" the committee spokesperson told The Hill. "It's not surprising the Obama board would reject a reasonable and routine request to give the public more time to review a significant regulatory proposal, but it's still disappointing."

But the NLRB is pushing the rule, because it believes the current process is too slow and favors management by giving them more time to intimidate employees against forming a union.

The NLRB resurrected the union election rule on Feb. 5, after a previous version was shot down in federal court.

Republicans have been trying to tackle the rule ever since. On March 13, Kline and Roe shared their concerns with the NLRB's Pearce in a closed-door meeting, but to no avail. 

Short of withdrawing the rule, which they would prefer, the two Republicans asked Pearce to extend the comment period by 30 days so the public has more time to consider the rule.

Pearce responded in the letter by denying their request, claiming it was unnecessary, because the public already has 60 days to comment on the rule.

"We want to ensure that the public has adequate time to consider the proposed changes and offer comment," Pearce wrote.

He added: "A majority of the board believes that all persons interested in the proposed amendments, including those in the best position to provide informed comment on the details of the board's representation-case procedures — the attorneys and other practitioners who regularly participate in representation proceedings — will have ample time and opportunity to do so within the 60-day comment period."

In a round-about effort to get rid of the rule, three Republicans, including Kline, Roe, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee, introduced legislation last week that would combat the NLRB's union election rule.

The legislation would require the NLRB to let 35 days pass from the time a petition is filed before a vote can take place. It would also give employers 14 days to prepared their case before presenting to an NLRB election official, as opposed to the seven days the agency is proposing.

A similar bill from Kline passed the Republican-controlled House in 2011, but it has little chance of getting through the Democrat-controlled Senate, experts say.