WASHINGTON, D.C. | April 9, 2014 -
Before I highlight the technical change included in the amendment, I’d like to help set the record straight and review briefly the specific policies embodied in the legislation. Despite what our Democratic colleagues may suggest, the legislation largely codifies a union election process that has worked well for decades.
Not too long ago, former acting general counsel Lafe Solomon described the NLRB’s ability to process elections as “outstanding” and an example of “excellent casehandling performance.” Our goal is to take the regulatory framework that helped create this outstanding record and make it part of the law, which is the best way to prevent an activist board from upending effective policies through bureaucratic fiat.
For example, H.R. 4320 ensures employers can participate in a fair election process. The legislation stipulates that no election hearing can begin in fewer than 14 days from the time an election petition is filed, providing all parties the opportunity to identify their concerns and prepare their case. The legislation also allows parties – employers and unions – to raise relevant and material issues throughout the pre-election hearing.
I would like to note this 14-day period is merely a minimum amount of time. A regional director could provide more time if he or she thinks it is helpful or necessary. A key aspect of the current process is the discretion afforded regional offices in handling election cases, which helps provide time to foster comprise and agreement. Witnesses at previous hearings testified that the board’s proposed rule would encourage the exact opposite. By setting arbitrary deadlines, limiting concerns that can be raised during the pre-election hearing, and restricting regional office discretion, the board will actually invite more confrontation and prolong the process – something I am confident no one wants to see.
The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act also reasserts the board’s responsibility to address outstanding issues before a union can begin representing workers. While many of us have broader concerns with the priorities of the Obama board, it still has a job to do. In their haste to rush union elections, the board would take itself out of the process almost entirely by refusing to review issues left unresolved before and after the election. Yet many of the issues it should address can alter the outcome of the election, such as questions surrounding voter eligibility or misconduct that may take place while workers are voting. H.R. 4320 requires the board to fulfill its responsibilities once the ballots are cast and before the union bargains on behalf of workers.
Finally, the legislation ensures workers have the time necessary to make a fully-informed decision. No election can be held in fewer than 35 days from the date an election is ordered. According to the most recent data, the median amount of time is now 38 days, placing the bill well in line with current practice. President John F. Kennedy once argued for a waiting period to “safeguard against rushing employees into an election where they are unfamiliar with the issues.” Republicans whole-heartedly agree, and believe 35 days is ample time for employees to learn the facts and make an informed decision.
Aside from these broader provisions, the amendment in the nature of a substitute contains a technical change to clarify that the legislation applies to all petitions for an election, regardless of the petitioner. By incorporating these changes into the amendment, we’ve ensured the underlying bill will effectively safeguard employer free speech and worker free choice. I urge my colleagues to support the amendment and the underlying bill.
# # #