Republican senators accuse labor board of ‘frontier justice'

A bitter fight is erupting on Capitol Hill over a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule that would speed up union elections.

Republicans and Democrats butted heads Wednesday in the first Senate hearing on what critics refer to as the “ambush election" rule.

The top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee accused the labor board of acting like vigilantes going outside the law to punish businesses.

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"This reminds me of Western movies about frontier justice and hanging judges,”  Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - How will Trump be received in Dayton and El Paso? McConnell faces pressure to bring Senate back for gun legislation Criminal justice reform should extend to student financial aid MORE (R-Tenn.) said during the hearing.

But Democrats played down Republican concerns about the union election rule.

"It seems like we’re not talking about the same rules, because it’s so apocalyptic coming from you guys, and to me it seems pretty modest,” Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenNative American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment Reid says he wishes Franken would run for Senate again Al Franken urges Trump to give new speech after shootings: 'Try to make it sound like you're sincere, even if you're not' MORE (D-Minn.) said at the hearing.

At issue is the amount of time it takes for workers to vote on whether to form a union. According to the NLRB, the current average is 38 days from the time a petition is filed.

Republicans say the new rule would cut the amount of time businesses have to prepare for union elections to as few as 10 days, which is where the term “ambush election" comes from.

"It forces a union election before an employer has a chance to figure out what’s going on,” Alexander said.

But Democrats contend businesses are “taking advantage of inefficiencies” to drag out the election process so they can retaliate against union organizers and intimidate workers.

“Evidently, delay works,” said Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenPossible GOP challenger says Trump doesn't doesn't deserve reelection, but would vote for him over Democrat Joe Biden faces an uncertain path The Memo: Trump pushes back amid signs of economic slowdown MORE (D-Mass.), who pointed out that one-third of employees who file a petition never get a chance to vote.

Warren called the current union election process a “mess."

"I’m sure that employers who want to fight to keep their workers out of a union prefer a broken, inefficient system that they can manipulate to try to block workers from organizing,” she said.