The Electrical Worker online
June 2012

Pro-Worker NLRB Rule Held Up by
Federal Judge
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A new National Labor Relations Board rule that would streamline the union election process and uphold the right of employees to hold a secret vote in a timely manner, was struck down by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg May 15.

The ruling came in a lawsuit against the rule filed by the Chamber of Commerce and the anti-union Coalition for a Democratic Workplace.

The NLRB temporarily has suspended the rule's implementation pending further legal action.

Many pro-worker activists said the change would help level the playing field in the workplace, giving workers a better shot at a fair election.

Under the old rule, it took months — sometimes years — between the time when workers petitioned for a union election and the election itself, allowing management to hold up the process by filing frivolous charges and bringing in union-busting consultants to sow discord.

But under the new rules, the board:

  • Strictly limits pre-election hearings to questions of jurisdiction and representation. Disputes about an individual's eligibility to vote can be resolved after the election takes place.

  • Eliminates the mandatory 25-day waiting period between when petitions are certified and when an election is set, shortening the timeframe for a union election to little as 10 days.

"These are small changes, but it has the power to make or break union elections," says IBEW Organizer Cory McCray.

The changes also cut down on excessive paperwork, allowing workers to submit signed petitions online, as well as making workplace elections more transparent, requiring employers to provide workers with an up-to-date voter list in electronic format soon after an election date is set.

The U.S. Senate rejected Republican efforts to overturn the changes April 24.

"All the board has done is to send a clear message to employers: you can't abuse the process to buy yourself more time to intimidate workers," Sen. Tom Harkin told the Associated Press.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) broke with her party to support the regulations, which were announced by the NLRB last summer.

"Our right to vote — both in the community and in the workplace — is sacred and shouldn't be buried in red tape and bureaucratic delay," says International President Edwin D. Hill. "Anti-worker special interests have declared war on the NLRB — just for doing its job of upholding the right of employees to join a union and collectively bargain if they so choose. We will continue to fight to make the new rule the law of the land."