The U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Thursday and
Friday is hearing input from unions, workers and businesses on the
board's proposals to modernize its rules for union elections, which
includes allowing electronic signatures and expediting pre-election
Employers, backed by their trade associations and lobbying groups,
have said the NLRB's plan will allow union organizers to hold
so-called "ambush elections" that would give companies little time
Unions and worker advocates have said this doomsday scenario is
The NLRB's priority is protecting the right of workers to organize
and improve working conditions, not weighing the power balance
between unions and employers, Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld attorney
Caren Sencer told the board Thursday.
"It is not an agency designed to balance interests," said Sencer,
who represents unions and workers in employment disputes.
The NLRB is an 80-year-old federal agency that oversees union
elections, protects workers' rights to take collective action and
polices unfair labor practices in the private sector.
Three Democrats and two Republicans serve on the board.
For decades the NLRB has been a battleground where political parties
have waged ideological war over organized labor's role in the U.S.
workforce. Pro-labor Democrats frequently spar with pro-management
Republicans over the board's composition, case decisions and
The NLRB said it was considering revising its union election rules
in February. The proposals resemble ones the board adopted in 2011,
but which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups
challenged and a federal court threw out on procedural grounds.
[to top of second column]
Now, the board is revisiting the issue and the proposals are proving
no more popular with employers the second time around. Labor unions
largely support the amendments.
One revision would let workers use electronic signatures to say
whether they support holding a union election. This would lead to
fraud, management attorneys told the board on Thursday.
A union representative countered that electronic signatures are used
on everything from Internet purchases to submitting binding legal
documents such as wills.
Another revision, meant to save time and money, would require
parties to submit written statements about disputed issues before a
pre-election hearing, saving lawyers from having to prepare for
every possible eventuality, union attorneys said.
But Proskauer Rose attorney Ronald Meisburg, representing the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce, disagreed. He said the requirement would be a
dramatic departure from board procedure that would leave small
"The due process rights of employers, particularly small employers,
should not be sacrificed," Meisburg told the board.
A committee in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives
has advanced two bills that would block or undo the changes the
board has proposed. The bills are likely dead in the Senate, which
is controlled by Democrats.
(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Lisa Shumaker)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.