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 AlexanderGrassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices McConnell blocks House bill to reopen government for second time Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks 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 FrankenIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination Bill Maher defends Bernie Sanders campaign over sexual harassment allegations Gillibrand defends calling for Franken to resign during stop in Iowa 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 WarrenDem 2020 hopeful Buttigieg touts his experience level, compares it to Trump's Kamala Harris leads 2020 Dem field in second Daily Kos straw poll Sherrod Brown: Dems will lose if 'we have to choose' between speaking to progressive base and workers 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.