Proposals to speed up American unionization process passed

U.S. Labor Relations Board aims to hold certification votes in under 21 days

Proposed rules to speed up the union certification process in the United States have been tentatively approved by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The rules, which now must be drafted into a final document and voted on again, are intended to reduce the amount of time to hold union elections (as certification votes are known in the U.S.) to under 21 days. Currently, the median delay is 38 days. The process would see employers postpone legal challenges to elections until after the workers conduct a certification vote. At present, challenges are often filed before the vote, which delays the balloting for weeks or months.

The new rules were passed Nov. 30 by a two-to-one vote by the board, which has been operating two members short.

The measure was supported by the panel's two Democrats, chairman Mark Pearce and Craig Becker. It was opposed by the lone Republican, Brian Hayes, who had threatened to resign in protest of plans to finalize the changes before the board loses its quorum when Becker's appointment expires at year's end.

The changes would accelerate the run-up to union elections, leaving companies and their workers little time to make their respective cases for or against representation, said Hayes. He also said the year-end deadline would leave the board little time to further deliberate on the changes and for him to formulate a dissenting opinion.

American employers have more freedom than Canadian employers to persuade employees not to unionize.

"This is not an emergency situation," Hayes said before the vote. "My view remains that this is a fundamentally flawed rule and the product of a fundamentally flawed process."

Pearce called the changes necessary to stem what he called unnecessary litigation that "wastes time and resources," and said the proposal would not create inflexibility or uncertainty in union elections.

Later in the afternoon, the House of Representatives passed a bill to try to overturn the Labor Relations Board’s rule and require a 35-day waiting period before union elections could be held.

Minnesota Representative John Kline’s bill overturns a June ruling that allows union elections to take place 10 days after employees call for them. The legislation dictates that at least 35 days must pass before a vote can take place.

Kline’s bill, however, is unlikely to be approved by the Democratic-led Senate.

Republican lawmakers say the proposed NLRB procedural changes are proof of an Obama administration regulatory agenda that stifles job creation.

Although the NLRB is an independent agency, both Pearce and Becker were appointed by President Barack Obama.

Democrats say Republicans and business interests have put up barriers to union organizing, and are out to protect companies like Target and Wal-Mart Stores where union drives have so far failed.

-- with files from Reuters

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