By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org
Labor unions got an early Christmas present from the National Labor Relations Board: access to non-union workers’ email address and phone numbers.
The NLRB earlier this month issued new rules for how and when union organizing elections can take place within workplaces. Under the new rules, unions will have access to employees’ private information as they make their sales pitch, and employers will have less time to respond to workers’ demands before a unionization election can take place.
Geoff Burr, vice president of the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., a national trade association for non-union construction companies, said the new rules “will lead to the unsolicited distribution of employees’ personal contact information.”
The NLRB says the changes are meant to streamline the process of holding elections and stop employers from stalling. Opponents of the changes say they will unfairly give unions an upper-hand in convincing workers to unionize.
“Simplifying and streamlining the process will result in improvements for all parties,” NLRB chairman Mark Pearce said in a statement announcing the new rules. “With these changes, the Board strives to ensure that its representation process remains a model of fairness and efficiency for all.”
There is much for employers to dislike about the latest set of election rules, but there are two points that stand out.
First, the new rules require employers to hand over personal information — like employees’ phone numbers and email addresses — to labor unions, making it easier for them to solicit support. Second, the new rules eliminate a 25-day waiting period between when a union election is called for and when it can take place.
That waiting period, opponents of the ruling said, allows for employers to respond to employees’ demands and to counter any arguments being made in favor of unionization.
“A reasonable election period is needed that gives workers enough time to educate their coworkers about the potential impact of unionization after months or even years of union organizing and propaganda,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation.
Currently, the average time between when a union files a representation petition — the first step in organizing a workplace into a union — is 38 days, but the new rules could trim that to as few as 10 days.
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, hailed what he called “modest” changes to the election process.
“Too often, lengthy and unnecessary litigation over minor issues bogs down the election process and prevents workers from getting the vote they want,” Trumka said in a statement.
But the new rules might not be here to stay. They won’t be official until April, and already there is discussion of a potential lawsuit.
That worked the last time the NLRB issued this type of a rule for speeding up union elections.
In 2011, groups led by Associated Builders and Contractors successfully challenged the laws because they were approved while the NLRB was lacking a quorum of three members. The board has five members.
After a federal judge struck down some of the rules in 2012 because of that technicality, the NLRB withdrew the rest and promised to start the process over again.
If there were to be another legal challenge, it would have to focus on the merits of the rules and the NLRB’s legal authority to issue them, said Glenn Spencer, vice president of the Workforce Freedom Initiative at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“This time in litigation, we will have to fight on the merits of the rule and whether this is an overstepping of the board’s authority, which we believe it is,” he told Watchdog Radio on Thursday.
Burr said in a statement that ABC was also considering legal action against the new election rules.
“We will continue to lead the fight against ambush elections through every available avenue,” he said.