WASHINGTON — The National Labor Relations Board said Tuesday it is proposing new rules that would speed up union elections, a move that won labor support but agitated the business community.
Under current rules, 95 percent of all initial elections were held 56 days within the filing of petition in fiscal year 2010, according to the NLRB. The board seeks to reduce the time period significantly with the proposed changes, although it did not impose a specific time frame for filing a petition and holding an election.
Among the proposals, which will be subject to a 75-day public comment and hearing period, the NLRB would “standardize time frames” for parties to resolve or litigate issues before and after elections, eliminate “unnecessary” litigation by requiring parties to identify issues and describe evidence soon after a petition is filed, and defer litigation of most “voter eligibility” issues until after an election.
“The current rules seem to build in delays, to encourage wasteful litigation, to reflect old-fashioned communication technologies and to allow haphazard case-processing by not adopting best practices,” said NLRB chairman Wilma B. Liebman.
Liebman said she expects the proposed changes to “result in rules that are simpler, that are clearer, and that come closer to achieving the aim of the National Labor Relations Act: making sure that employees are free to choose whether or not they want to be represented at work, in a quick, fair and accurate way.”
Business groups argued the proposed rules could deprive employees a reasonable period of time to consider the facts, while labor groups claimed they could cut down on antiunion campaigns.
“Limited election time frames unjustly limit an employer’s ability to convey their point of view to their own employees prior to a secret ballot election,” said Katherine Lugar, executive vice president of public affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association. “Employees should be able to make informed, as well as private, decisions about this important issue.”
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, called the board’s proposals a “modest step to remove roadblocks and reduce unnecessary and costly litigation — and that’s good news for employers, as well as employees.”
Trumka added that the proposed rules fall short of addressing “fundamental problems with our labor laws, but it will help bring critically needed fairness and balance to this part of the process.”