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Latest News - March 2015

March 19, 2015
Republicans target NLRB in attempt to roll back 'micro-unions'

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., introduced legislation Thursday that would reverse a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that enforces labor laws, that allows for so-called micro-unions.

Republican lawmakers have sought for years to overturn the ruling, which they see as proof that the agency is tilting toward unions.

"The NLRB's decision to allow micro-unions divides workplaces and makes it harder and more expensive for employers to manage their workplace and do business," said Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and the Workforce Committee. "This legislation will restore balance and fairness to the workplace and reduce the conflict, lawsuits and uncertainty that this decision causes."

The board's micro-election rule allows for labor unions to attempt to organize specific parts of a workplace, rather than the whole. In other words, a union could try to organize the workers in a department store's cosmetics section rather than the entire store. Businesses oppose the rule, seeing it as giving unions a toehold in otherwise non-union businesses.

Previously, unions could try to organize a workplace only by a getting a majority of all workers there on board. That changed after a 2011 case called Specialty Hardware in which the labor board reversed itself and allowed smaller collective bargaining units.

Republicans introduced similar legislation to overturn the board's rule in 2013 but it was never voted on the then-Democrat controlled Senate. The current version, by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., has 14 co-sponsors but is unlikely to become law since the White House would likely veto it if it passed Congress.

Also Thursday, the House voted 233-181 Thursday morning to prohibit the board from implementing a different rule that would speed up the scheduling of union workplace organizing elections, often called the "quickie election rule." Republicans call it the "ambush election rule" and argue the board is trying to tilt the elections in the favor of unions by making it impossible for businesses to make the case against having a union to their workers.

Fans of the rule argue it is necessary to prevent businesses from delaying the elections. The Senate passed a version earlier this month, on a 53-45 vote. Like the micro-union legislation, it likely would be vetoed if it made it to the president's desk.

A statement from Alexander's office indicated that introducing the micro-union legislation on the same day as the House's vote was intentional effort to highlight the labor board's efforts.


"Under these two policies, union organizers would be able control which employees get to vote and when they get to vote — nearly every aspect of the organizing process. Union organizers would be able to handpick the employees that support unionization, leaving employers with little or no say in the formation of the bargaining unit and employees who did not want to work in a unionized workplace shutout entirely."



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