Just days before Democratic member Craig Becker’s term expires, the National Labor Relations Board formally adopted new procedures to govern union elections. The upshot: The new rules will shorten the time period between the day an employee first requests an election to unionize and the day that election actually takes place. The Labor Relations Institute explains in greater detail:

The new election procedure does away with  the 25-day period for Board review of unit decisions and the ability to suspend hearings once the region has determined that there are no major unit issues (i.e. unit issues affecting more than 20% of the voting unit).  It leaves out many of the other controversial provisions related to things like initial statement of position, voter lists, 7-day hearings and the like.  Clearly the focus is on the parts of the rule that gain the most days in the election process.  And  it still gets unions their key goal, which is to cut the average election time down substantially. The proposed rules in the resolution would still reduce election times down by about half, probably around 21 days.

The new procedures will take effect April 30, 2012, and little is likely to happen between now and then to forestall that. The House of Representatives has passed legislation to establish a minimum-35-day election period, but that legislation will probably not pass the Senate.

Meantime, the significance of snap elections remains much the same, regardless of whether the NLRB abandoned “the most controversial” elements of its proposals. As I’ve said since the threat of quickie elections first surfaced, the design of shortened election periods is to limit the amount of time in which employers can make the case against unionization.

NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce says, “This rule is about giving all employees who have petitioned for an election the right to vote in a timely manner and without the impediment of needless litigation.” But that litigation is only “needless” if employers’ needs don’t count in the equation. We’ve seen too many times that, with this particular NLRB, that is all too true.

What is, perhaps, most exasperating about this is that just two people decided it. The Board has been down to just three members for some time and Republican NLRB member Brian Hayes voted against ambush elections.

Update: This piece originally incorrectly referred to the current NLRB chairman as “William Pearce,” when, in fact, his name is “Mark Pearce.” The post has been corrected above.