The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will vote tomorrow, November 30, 2011, on whether to adopt certain proposed changes to its election procedures.. These changes, initially proposed over the summer, include a controversial proposal to shorten the amount of time between the filing of a union petition and the conduct of the election. Many advocates for business have spoken out against this rule, which would severely limit the ability of an employer to oppose unionization and to make the case to its employees that a union is either not necessary or not in their best interests.
The NLRB vote was scheduled before year’s end because the expiration of the recess appointment of one of its three members would leave the two remaining members without a quorum and unable to adopt the proposed rule changes. In response, the Board’s sole Republican member, who strongly opposes the rule changes, has threatened to either resign from his post or decline to attend the vote in order to prevent a required quorum, and Republican Senators have indicated that they will likely block confirmation of any NLRB appointments by President Obama after the New Year. A two-member NLRB would be rendered largely ineffective, as it would not be able to rule on cases or adopt amendments to the Board’s rules.
On top of all of this, a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to approve a bill to mandate a 35-day waiting period from the filing of a union petition to the actual election. The bill would effectively nullify the NLRB’s proposed rule change. Although such a bill could potentially pass the House, it would be highly unlikely for it to pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
We will continue to monitor these developments. One thing, however, is clear: partisanship currently rules the day when it comes to the NLRB and America’s evolving labor relations policies.