NLRB ‘Ambush Election’ Rule Survives With Obama Veto

Connor D. Wolf | Reporter

President Barack Obama on Tuesday vetoed a resolution that would have ended a labor board rule critics say unfairly benefits unions.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule, which was finalized in December, shortens the length of time in which a labor union certification election is held from the current median of 38 days to as little as 11 days. Attempts by the Republican-controlled Congress to end the rule through a resolution were vetoed by the president.

“Workers need a strong voice in the workplace and the economy to protect and grow our nation’s middle class,” the president argued in his Memorandum of Disapproval.

“Unions have played a vital role in giving workers that voice, allowing workers to organize together for higher wages, better working conditions, and the benefits and protections that most workers take for granted today,” he continued. “Because this resolution seeks to undermine a streamlined democratic process that allows American workers to freely choose to make their voices heard, I cannot support it.”

Critics, however, argue the rule actually benefits unions at the expense of both workers and employers. Calling it the “Ambush Election” rule, Republican lawmakers have argued it will deprive employees the time to fully understand the impact of unionizing before they have to vote on whether they even want one.

“The president’s partisan veto will further empower powerful political bosses at the expense of the rights of middle-class workers,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared in a statement. “Republicans believe workers have the right to make their own, informed choices when casting a ballot in the workplace; we don’t think powerful political bosses should rush or force that decision on them, as the ambush rule proposes. We’ll continue to stand strong against Obama Administration attempts to weaken workers’ rights in order to enrich its powerful political friends.”

“The NLRB’s ambush election rule is an assault on the rights and privacy protections of American workers,” Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner also noted. “With his veto, the president has once again put the interests of his political allies ahead of the small business owners and hardworking Americans who create jobs and build a stronger economy.”

“The NLRB’s new ambush election rule forces a union election in a little as 11 days— before an employer and most employees even have a chance to figure out what is going on,” Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate labor committee, stated. “I’m disappointed the president wasted this opportunity to prevent the board’s rule from infringing on every employee’s right to privacy and every employer’s right to free speech.”

Fred Wszolek, spokesman for the Workplace Fairness Institute (WFI), argues the veto shows the president is once again unfairly favoring his labor board and labor unions.

“President Obama has once again demonstrated where his real loyalties lie,” Wszolek noted in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Instead of listening to the American people’s elected representatives in Congress and acting to protect our jobs, Obama has sided with union bosses yet again in their mission to railroad workers and small businesses,” he continued.

“This veto is an endorsement of a gross overreach by the National Labor Relations Board and sanctions bullying tactics that tarnish the workplace election process,” Wszolek concluded. “American employers will not stop fighting against President Obama’s ‘ambush’ elections, and any unfair practice that kills American jobs and hurts workers in an effort to pay back Big Labor bosses.”

Howard Bloom, from the national employment law firm Jackson Lewis, warned the veto was likely and that even lawmakers knew the resolution was likely going to be blocked by the president.

“It’s almost exclusively symbolic,” Bloom told TheDCNF. “Employers really need to prepare now.”

Despite the NLRB rule surviving Congress, there are still a few obstacles it has to get passed. Earlier attempts by the NLRB to pass a similar rule failed but as Bloom notes, that likely means the new rule is designed to survive where previous versions could not.

“First of all, the law has to make it through a couple lawsuits,” Bloom noted. “A couple years ago they tried it but it was struck down on a technicality.”

One current lawsuit against the rule comes from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with support from the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, National Association of Manufacturers, National Retail Federation, and the Society for Human Resource Management. The groups have been highly critical of the rule for its negative impact on employers and workers.

“There’s a lot of other feature in the rule that hasn’t been receiving attention,” Bloom also noted. “It creates a lot of work for employers after the petition is signed.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka argued the resolution to end the NLRB rule will hurt workers. Many labor unions have supported the rule since it was announced.

“Working men and women want an agenda from their congressional leaders that raises wages and grows our middle class,” Trumka declared in a statement. “Instead, they have gotten Republican policies that roll back progress and silence workers while protecting their biggest donors.”

“President Obama is right in his commitment to vetoing this harmful legislation, and congressional Republicans should focus their efforts on lifting workers up instead of shutting them out,” he added.

Labor board officials have defended the new rule by noting it will help streamline the process for resolving representation disputes.

“I am heartened that the board has chosen to enact amendments that will modernize the representation case process and fulfill the promise of the National Labor Relations Act,” NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce said in a statement. “Simplifying and streamlining the process will result in improvements for all parties. With these changes, the board strives to ensure that its representation process remains a model of fairness and efficiency for all.”

The rule was approved by board members Pearce, Kent Hirozawa and Nancy Schiffer, with Philip Miscimarra and Harry Johnson III dissenting.

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