The National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday reignited a debate after proposing rules that would speed up and streamline union elections, a move business groups immediately opposed.
The NLRB, divided along party lines, faces a battle with business groups over the rules, previously proposed in 2011 and invalidated by a court ruling, that would allow for electronic filing of election petitions, include telephone numbers and email addresses in voter lists and consolidate election-related appeals.
"With a Senate-confirmed five-member board, I feel it is important for the board to fully consider public comment on these proposed amendments, along with comments we received in 2011," NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce said in a statement.
The previous 2011 effort hit a wall after a court ruling found the rules had been "adopted without a validly constituted quorum," the NLRB said.
The board's three Democrats, chairman Mark Gaston Pearce, Kent Y. Hirozawa and Nancy Schiffer, are in favor of the proposed rules. Philip A. Miscimarra and Harry I. Johnson dissented.
"Unnecessary delay and inefficiencies hurt both employees and employers," Pearce said. "These proposals are intended to improve the process for all parties, in all cases, whether nonunion employees are seeking a union to represent them or unionized employees are seeking to decertify a union."
Business groups, however, don't see it that way and plan to mount a campaign against the proposed rules.
One trade group, the Associated Builders and Contractors, characterized the rules as the "ambush elections proposal."
“This proposal is a solution in search of a problem,” said Geoff Burr, vice president of government affairs at the trade group.
“Shortening the election period does nothing to ensure a fairer election and it is clearly not necessary to help the NLRB meet its self-imposed goal for election time frames,” he said. “In addition, it denies employers their rights to free speech and employees the opportunity to make a fully informed decision."
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the country's largest labor federation, applauded the proposed rules, calling them "common-sense."
"When workers petition for an NLRB election, they should receive a timely opportunity to vote," Trumka said in a statement. "But the current NLRB election process is riddled with delay and provides too many opportunities for employers to manipulate and drag out the process through costly and unnecessary litigation and deny workers a vote. These rules are an important step in the right direction and will help improve the election process."
The proposed amendments will appear in the Federal Register on Thursday, the NLRB said. Public comment on the new rules will end April 7.