WASHINGTON, D.C. | March 5, 2014
For many of my colleagues, this hearing might evoke a sense of déjà vu. Not too long ago we debated a nearly identical ambush election rule proposed by the National Labor Relations Board that would stifle employers’ free speech and cripple workers’ free choice. In 2011 the House passed with bipartisan support a bill that would have protected the rights of workers, employers, and unions by reining in this radical proposal.
Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the Democrat Senate refused to defend our struggling workforce. This failure to act gave the Obama labor board a green light to continue its assault on America’s workplaces. As a result, the board revived its deeply misguided rule in the desperate hope it will lead to more union members.
The ambush election proposal gives employers only seven days to find legal counsel and appear before an NLRB regional officer at a pre-election hearing. During that brief period of time, employers will have to identify every possible legal concern or basically forfeit the ability to raise additional concerns during the course of the hearing. The rule also delays answers to important questions such as determining the appropriate bargaining unit and voter eligibility, until after workers have voted. Additionally, the proposed rule jeopardizes worker privacy by delivering to union organizers employees’ names, home and email addresses, work schedules, and other personal information.
It’s been almost three years since this proposal was first introduced and it is just as bad now as it was back then. The board should have used this time to build public support for changing long-standing policies governing union elections. It didn’t. The board should have also used this time to address the roughly 65,000 comments submitted during the last rulemaking process. It didn’t. And if our democratic colleagues truly believe the current system is broken, they should have used this time to champion a bill that would enact these changes through the legislative process. But they didn’t.
Instead, we are back where we were in 2011: Confronting significant changes to labor law imposed through executive fiat, without the consent of the American people or their elected representatives. This is the latest example of how disconnected the president and his allies are with the needs of working families.
In 1959 then-Senator John F. Kennedy advocated for a 30-day period between the filing of a union election petition and the election. Was Senator Kennedy advocating delay for the sake of delay? Of course not. Our 35th president stated that a waiting period is “an additional safeguard against rushing employees into an election where they are unfamiliar with the issues.”
For decades, concerns about rushing employees into an election have been shared by a majority of the board and addressed through a fair election process, one that provides workers time to consider the facts, hear from their employers, consult with their close friends, family members, and co-workers as they try to make a fully-informed decision. The Obama board wants to tear down existing safeguards and instead impose an ambush election scheme that is meant to empower union bosses by jamming workers and silencing employers.
The board’s proposed rule is one more challenge workers and employers will have to face in the midst of this protracted jobs crisis. Mort Zuckerman, chairman and editor in chief of U.S. News and World Report, recently wrote, “A more robust economy, stoked by growth-oriented policies from Washington, would help produce the jobs and opportunities that millions of Americans need to climb the economic ladder.”
The fundamental problem with the president’s labor agenda is this: It has done very little to help put our labor-force back to work. Instead, it is designed to simply swell the ranks of dues-paying union members. Employees have the right to join or not join a union; across the country they continue to exercise that right. Federal law must ensure a level playing field and ultimately allow workers to make their own decisions.
Next week, Representative Roe and I will have an opportunity to meet with Chairman Pearce to discuss our concerns with his ambush election rule. If there are opportunities to work together to streamline the election process, like filing documents electronically, we are more than eager to help achieve a reasonable goal. However, if he is determined to ram through the regulatory process a rule that will harm protections enjoyed by workers, employers, and unions, then this committee will do what’s necessary and stand by those we are elected to serve.
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