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Committee Statements

Kline Statement: Hearing on "Rushing Union Elections: Protecting the Interests of Big Labor at the Expense of Workers' Free Choice

As prepared for delivery.

This week, the Wall Street Journal noted that “the stumbling recovery has also proven to be the worst since the economic disaster of the 1930s.” With the backdrop of this difficult economy, we meet today to discuss the National Labor Relations Board’s recent proposal to rush union elections. This proposal is the latest example of an activist NLRB crafting a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. The proposal will enact sweeping change to the nation’s workplaces at a time when many employers are struggling to keep their businesses open and nearly 14 million individuals are searching for work. It is a step in the wrong direction, and we must reverse course.

The board’s flawed proposal will upend an election system that has served employers and workers well for decades. On average, elections are held within 31 days of the date a petition is filed. Last year, 95 percent of all initial elections were conducted in less than 60 days. In 2009, the median time between notice of a pre-election hearing and the end of the same hearing was just 13 days. Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon, someone who is no shill for big business, described this record as “outstanding” and “excellent casehandling performance.”

I realize there are times when cases simply take too long to resolve, creating frustration for employers and workers. Any party that causes needless delay should be held accountable. However, I believe Mr. Solomon’s strong endorsement of the board’s record suggests these instances are exceptions to the rule.

Despite this record of success, the Obama board seems to believe the current process isn’t doing enough to advance the cause of Big Labor. Unions currently win nearly 70 percent of all elections, yet the rules of the game are being rewritten to further tilt the playing field in favor of union interests. Under the board’s proposal, a union election could occur in as little as 10 days. Where Big Labor can’t convince workers to unionize through an open and fair process, the NLRB will step in to stifle an employer’s free speech and undermine an employee’s free choice.

I know there are some who consider this a “modest” proposal that will help promote “fair” elections. But I wonder if a small business owner– already struggling to keep the doors open – would consider it “modest” to have just seven days to find legal representation and prepare their case to present to the NLRB?

Is it fair to tell workers the views of their employers are less important than the views of the union?

Is it modest to delay important questions, such as voter eligibility, until after the election?

Is it fair to provide to the union an employee’s phone number, work location, and email address, further subjecting workers to union pressure and jeopardizing their privacy?

Is it fair to tell workers they may have as little as 10 days to consider all of the ramifications of joining a union before they cast a ballot in the election? These are the questions that lie at the heart of the board’s proposal and I believe they lead to a resounding and categorical “no.”

I have in my hand a document released by the NRLB’s General Counsel titled, “An Outline of Law and Procedure in Representation Cases.” It is broken down into 24 different sections and spans nearly 450 pages. Keep in mind, this represents merely an “outline” of the legal morass an employer confronts during a union election. It is a challenge for any large business with a team of skilled attorneys on staff, let alone the small employer who lacks the legal knowledge and resources necessary to navigate the complexities of federal labor law. Forcing employers and workers to grapple with the full consequences of all this in as little as 10 days will undermine an employer’s ability to communicate with their employees and cripple a worker’s ability to make a fully informed decision.

I am confident we will hear our friends on the other side of the aisle criticize today’s hearing. It is certainly their right to do so. However, we all have a responsibility to oversee the board’s activities and ensure it is working for the best interests of all workers. The board’s recent proposal is part of an ongoing effort to promote a culture of union favoritism that is creating greater uncertainty among America’s job creators. We cannot sit by and become willing accomplices in the NLRB’s job-destroying agenda.


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