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Union Organizing

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This week saw significant news related to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) and its actions that may affect the way HR professionals respond to union organizing activities in the future.

After over 1,000 SHRM members wrote to, and over 300 SHRM members visited, their representative in the House in support of Representative John Kline’s (R-MN) bill, H.R. 3094, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, the House passed the bill by a vote of 235 to 188 on Nov. 30. Briefly, the legislation is a response to the Board’s Specialty Healthcare decision and “quick election” rule.

As approved by the House, the Kline measure would:

  • Mandate that employers have at least 14 days to present their case before a NLRB election officer, and the election could not occur until 35 days have passed since the date of the union petition.
  • Reinstate the 20-year-old standard for determining which employees will vote in a union election. The bill makes clear that the appropriate unit for collective bargaining is employees who share a sufficient community of interest. In other words, the NLRB should determine bargaining units based on employees with similar wages, benefits, working conditions, supervisors and job functions, among other factors.
  • Allow employees to choose the personal contact information that is provided to the NLRB and relevant union in an “Excelsior list,” which an employer must file within seven days after a union election has been directed by the Board.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where it could be considered on the floor as an amendment or a stand-alone bill but the road to enactment will be very difficult if not impossible.  President Obama issued a statement of administration position (SAP) opposing H.R. 3094, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act on November 17.

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Also on Nov. 30, the NLRB approved changes to the initial version of its controversial "quick election" rule that was released on June 22.  The Board still plans to vote on the final rule this month.  The changes represent an acknowledgment that the Board doesn't have time or the support to adopt all provisions of the proposed rule before Democratic member Craig Becker’s recess appointment expires at year’s end.

Although the amended proposal is still very much of concern to HR practitioners, it does not contain the following requirements originally proposed by the Board:

  • A pre-election hearing must be held within seven days after notice.
    Employer must file a written statement of position prior to the hearing.
  • Employer must include employees’ e-mail addresses and telephone numbers in Excelsior lists.
  • The voter list must be supplied within two days after the direction of election, rather than the current seven-day requirement.

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Finally, The Boeing Company and the International Association of Machinists (IAM) announced this week they had agreed on a four-year collective bargaining agreement. If approved by employees, the agreement would keep open the new Boeing 787 plant in South Carolina and possibly lead to the dismissal of the NLRB’s unfair labor practice complaint against Boeing for creating the plant. 

SHRM is supporting a House-passed bill (H.R. 2587) that would limit the authority of the NLRB and prohibit it from ordering employers to shut down plants or relocate work.

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