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 AlexanderOvernight Health Care: Dem chairs to meet with progressives on drug pricing | Oregon judge says he will block Trump abortion rule | Trump vows to 'smash the grip' of drug addiction | US measles cases hit post-2000 record The Higher Education Act must protect free speech Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 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 FrankenBehar laments Franken resignation to Gillibrand: 'I really miss him now' Winners and losers from first fundraising quarter Election analyst says Gillibrand doesn't have 'horsepower to go the full distance' 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 WarrenColbert links large 2020 Dem field to Avengers: 'A group of every available person in the universe' Seven big decisions facing Biden in 2020 primary Sanders dominates, Buttigieg surges in 2020 social media battle 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.