WASHINGTON — The National Labor Relations Board on Friday issued a controversial final rule that shortens the time frame for union elections.
The move drew praise from unions and an immediate rebuke from retail and business groups.
According to the NLRB, the new rule is aimed at “streamlining and modernizing” union election procedures and will eliminate a 25-day waiting period between when an election is ordered and when it is held. It also requires employers to give employee e-mail addresses and phone numbers to union organizers.
Retail officials noted the rule postpones litigation until after a union election, including cases to determine who is part of the bargaining unit.
“Simplifying and streamlining the process will result in improvements for all parties,” said NLRB chairman Mark Gaston Pearce. “With these changes, the board strives to ensure that its representation process remains a model of fairness and efficiency for all.”
The rule seeks to “eliminate unnecessary litigation and delay,” the NLRB said.
Retail groups on Friday blasted the new rule, which contained many provisions that were at the heart of a lawsuit filed in 2011 against the NLRB by the National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Coalition for a Democratic Workplace. The lawsuit became moot after a court threw out the NLRB’s proposed rule because of a lack of a quorum, industry groups said.
“This is a devastating rule for employees throughout the retail industry,” said David French, senior vice president of government relations at the NRF. “These men and women will be forced to make a decision that could drastically change their workplace environment without adequate information and time to consider the issues before them. The NLRB already conducts a vast majority of representation elections within a reasonable time frame, and this rule is simply unnecessary and unfair.”
The NLRB has estimated that the median time period between a petition and an election is 38 days.
An NRF spokesman said that time period will be drastically shortened with the new rule, citing estimates from seven to 21 days.
“Undermining the integrity of the union organizing process by speeding up elections ensures that workers will not have access to all of the facts when making decisions,” French said, noting that the NRF is again considering legal and legislative action to combat the NLRB’s action.
“This flawed rule is harmful to both workers and employers,” said Kelly Kolb, vice president for government affairs at RILA. “By dramatically changing the procedures that govern union elections, the rule limits the information available to employees prior to entering the voting booth, potentially subjects employees to harassment at home and undermines the due process rights of employers.”
The NLRB’s changes to the union election procedures were a victory for unions.
“Too often, lengthy and unnecessary litigation over minor issues bogs down the election process and prevents workers from getting the vote they want,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO. “We commend the NLRB’s efforts to streamline the process and reduce unnecessary delay.”