Proposed NLRB Rules to Speed Up Elections

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal government agency that interprets and enforces the nation’s labor relations laws, has proposed new regulations on procedures for holding representation elections. A representation election is held to determine whether a group of employees wants a particular union to represent them in dealing with company management.

Some of these changes simply bring the agency up to technological speed or otherwise streamline the process. For example, the proposed rules would allow parties to file documents with the NLRB electronically, and would ensure that the parties receive certain basic information and forms when an election petition is filed. The proposal would also bring together all of the NLRB’s regulations on elections in one place, to minimize confusion and possible contradictions. These proposed changes haven’t met with any resistance.

However, a number of the changes would speed up the election process, both by shortening the period between when an election petition is filed and when the election is actually held, and by eliminating or postponing certain procedures and challenges until the election is over. These proposals have been very controversial, in part because they shorten the time during which employers can try to defeat an organization campaign. Union advocates claim that employers have used this window (between the filing of a petition and the actual election) to intimidate employees into opposing the union; employer advocates counter that the more employees learn about unions, the more likely they are to vote against representation. Whether this time is used for legitimate communication or unfair tactics, both sides agree that speeding up the election process will benefit unions, not employers.

Perhaps that’s why the Republican Congress is getting in on the act: Last week, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on the proposed regulations. In case you’re wondering how the party in the majority feels about the proposed rules, the title of the hearing kind of gives it away: It was called “Rushing Union Elections: Protecting the Interests of Big Labor at the Expense of Workers’ Free Choice.