With a 2-1 labor-friendly advantage, the National Labor Relations Board is poised to speed up the union election process, but to do so it would have to bend its own rules.
According to precedent, the NLRB requires at least three “yes” votes to make changes, such as those proposed for the elections. But it plans to adopt the regulations with just two “yes” votes, anyway in a meeting scheduled for Nov. 30.
At full force, the NLRB is comprised of five members. Due to wrangling between President Barack Obama and Congress, it currently has only three members. They are: Craig Becker, associate general counsel of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Mark Gaston Pearce, NLRB chairman; and Brian Hayes, Republican labor policy director for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. All three are Obama appointees.
Hayes is expected to vote “no” on the changes while Becker and Pearce are expected to vote “yes.” Passing the new rules with only two affirmative votes would be a break with the way the NLRB has always operated. However, that doesn't seem to be considered an obstacle.
“We think this is one of the more aggressive moves by the National Labor Relations Board,” said Wendy Block, director of health policy and human resources for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. “They are supposed to have three members voting in favor to do this. But apparently they've decided to ignore that and just vote for it.
“We believe that speeding up the process would have a negative impact on businesses,” Block continued. “A business should be given time to talk with their employees about whether or not they really want to become unionized. The idea of snap elections doesn't help anyone.”
Nick Ciarmitaro, state director of legislation and public policy for AFSCME , did not return the phone call when given an opportunity to comment.
The explanation given on the NLRB website for the vote is that the rule changes are “intended to reduce unnecessary litigation, streamline pre- and post-election procedures, and facilitate the use of electronic communications and document filing.”
It's estimated that under the proposed rules businesses would have about half the time they presently have to address the potential pitfalls of unionization. Former NLRB member Peter Schaumber has likened it to having a political election in which only one party is given the opportunity to tell voters its side of the story, and could set an election date only days away, all without prior notice to the other side.