In what is arguably its most aggressive move to date, the National Labor Relations Board yesterday proposed new rules to speed up the union election process — a decision that will ultimately leave workers with less time to learn the facts before they vote to join a union.

Most labor elections currently take place within 45-60 days after a union gathers enough signatures to file a petition, a time many companies use to discourage workers from unionizing. The new plan could cut that time by days or even weeks – depending on the case – by simplifying procedures, deferring litigation and setting shorter deadlines for hearings and filings. …

Passage would be a victory for labor unions that have long complained about employers using procedural delays and litigation to hold up elections and intimidate workers.

The problems with snap elections are patently obvious. Heritage Foundation labor analyst James Sherk explains:

Snap elections short-circuit employers’ ability to make their case. If the election takes place in a matter of days workers will base their decision (largely) on information received from the union. This does not benefit workers.

Union organizers do not impartially advocate workers’ best interests. They are salesmen. They get paid to persuade workers to become dues-paying union members. Unions may legally use any number of misleading tactics to win worker support. … Unions also train organizers to avoid the potential downsides to unionization, like strike histories or dues increases.

Employees only get the full story when they hear from management. Employers are the ones who explain that unions often do not achieve their promised wage increases but always take 1-2 percent of wages in dues. Employers point out patterns of union corruption and clauses in union constitutions that levy stiff fines against workers who stray from union rules. Employers tell workers what the union organizers do not.

Not surprisingly, the four-member NLRB decided this by a partisan vote of 3 to 1. The only GOP member of the board, Brian E. Hayes, was also the lone objector. In his dissenting opinion, Hayes lays bare the true motivations for the board’s sweeping changes:

Today, my colleagues undertake an expedited rulemaking process in order to implement an expedited representation election process.  Neither process is appropriate or necessary.  Both processes, however, share a common purpose: to stifle full debate on matters that demand it, in furtherance of a belief that employers should have little or no involvement in the resolution of questions concerning representation. …

Make no mistake, the principal purpose for this radical manipulation of our election process is to minimize, or rather, to effectively eviscerate an employer’s legitimate opportunity to express its views about collective bargaining.

The NLRB opaquely proceeded with this new proposal without seeking feedback from those who will be affected by the change in rules — a fact that further confirms the decision aims to please a narrow constituency rather than to solve widely recognized problems. And, indeed, the board proposed these rules on its own initiative — not in response to complaints. Similarly, the public comment period on the new proposal will be brief, leaving objectors with little time to respond.

The NLRB betrays its insecurity. The desirability of unions must be very in doubt to prompt the board to issue these rules — for, surely, if it is in workers’ best interest to join a union, workers will discern that even after they hear their employer’s side of the story.

Unfortunately, this might be just the first in a series of “reforms.” According to Hayes’ dissenting opinion, the same academics who suggested these rules also favor requiring an employer to provide access to employees on its premises and conducting elections off-site, by mail ballot or by electronic vote.

Tags: NLRB unions