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Labor Board Trims Union-Election Proposal Before Quorum Ends

The National Labor Relations Board proposed scaling back plans for speedier U.S. union elections, as prospects dimmed for acting on the overhaul before the panel loses a quorum next month.

NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce said the board, which runs union elections and resolves disputes between labor and management, should consider a proposal tomorrow that applies to elections “held up by needless litigation,” according to a statement today. Pearce said the departure of a Democratic member next month, leaving the board with too few members to act, led him to offer “a more limited resolution.”

The labor board proposed streamlining labor elections in June, which Republican board member Brian Hayes said would result in elections within 21 days of a worker request to form a union. Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had fought the proposal, saying it would give employers less time to make their case with workers.

“The new resolution is not as far-reaching as it could have been, but it still gets unions their key goal, which is to cut the average election time down substantially,” said Phil Wilson, president of the Labor Relations Institute Inc., a closely held corporate consultant in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

Time is running short for the NLRB to act. The board has two vacancies, and the term of Democrat Craig Becker, a former lawyer for the AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union, will expire next month, leaving two voting members.

Postponing Appeals

The Pearce proposal would shrink the timing of union elections by eliminating the 25-day period for the NLRB to review the workers’ request to form a union. It also calls for postponing any election-related appeals.

“These are modest but important reforms to help ensure that workers who want to vote to form a union at their workplace get a fair opportunity to do so,” AFL-CIO spokesman Josh Goldstein said in an e-mail. “We hope the board will adopt these measures tomorrow and quickly move to adopt the rest of its proposed reforms.”

The NLRB is scheduled to vote tomorrow on whether to advance Pearce’s proposal. After that, a final rule based on his recommendation will be drafted and circulated for a vote.

“This is not as bad for business as it could have been, since what the NLRB will vote on tomorrow is only a resolution, and a final rule will still have to be drafted and circulated for a subsequent vote,” said Doreen Davis, co-chair of the labor practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in Philadelphia. “It is questionable whether that can be done before Becker’s term expires, as normally members are given 90 days to write a dissent.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that a two-member board can’t issue rulings.

Hayes, the only Republican on the board, has threatened to quit, according to Pearce, in a move aimed at blocking action by the panel on the election proposal. Hayes didn’t return a call requesting comment.

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