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NLRB FACED WITH STOPPAGE FROM POLITICAL FIGHTING

November 23, 2011

The National Labor Relation Board (NLRB) continues to be a top HR topic this year. The NLRB’s only Republic member, Brian Hayes has threatened to resign from the board to deny it
the quorum it needs to make any decisions.

The NLRB had announced last week that it would hold a public session on Nov. 30 to vote on rules for speedier elections. The regulations, which were first announced this past June, aim to ensure that unionization elections are held within 21 days of workers petitioning to have a union, down from what the agency says is a median of 38 days.

Mr. Hayes, the sole Republican member, reacted angrily to the proposed vote, and he suggested that he might seek to short-circuit it — perhaps by not attending the session, which some experts say would deprive the board of a quorum to vote on the rules.

The NLRB’s role is to enforce the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) a law enacted in 1935 to establish and oversee rules for unionization efforts and collective bargaining in the private sector. The board was placed in hold position from early 2008, when three of its five seats became vacant. Because the board cannot legally make decisions with just two members, almost nothing was accomplished for 26 months as Democrats and Republicans blocked appointed nominees. In March 2010, President Obama appointed two union lawyers to the board using recess appointments, which circumvent the Senate’s authority to confirm nominees. Labor unions argued that the appointments restored some balance after the board favored business under President George W. Bush. After the appointments, there were three Democrats and one Republican on the board.

During 2011, political fighting increased dramatically between both the Democrats and Republicans over a number of issues starting with the NLRB’s acting general counsel filing a
complaint against Boeing’s new aircraft production plant in South Carolina, asserting that Boeing had illegally retaliated against union members in the Seattle area. Furthermore, the complaint wants the aircraft production in South Carolina stopped and moved to Washington.

The current fight is about changing the rules for union elections. After the failure to secure the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, the NLRB proposed new operating procedures that, if implemented, could improve the chances for successful union organizing. Although the Democratic side is largely praising the new election rules and state that the current slow system gives employers too much time to intimidate workers to vote against unionizing, the Republican side as well as a large number of American employers are saying that employers need to have more time to educate their workers since union members often overpromise and fail to fully disclose disadvantages to joining a union during their campaigns. 11.23.2011.