Our guest blogger is Karla Walter, a Senior Policy Analyst with the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
The Senate is expected to vote tomorrow on whether to block a commonsense rule that creates a standard process for union elections and gives workers a fairer way of choosing whether to form a union. Unions boost incomes for all middle-class households — union and nonunion alike — so this vote is an attack not just on workers who would like to join a union, but on the entire middle class.
The new rule is needed because there is currently no limit on employers’ or unions’ ability to demand a pre-election hearing on most any issue, which can be used to delay an election. Workers who want a union too often give up due to these delays. According to research by John-Paul Ferguson of Stanford Business School, 35 percent of the time that workers file a petition for an election, the election does not end up happening.
The National Labor Relations Board issued the rule last winter. Now, Senate Republicans and their conservative allies are bending the facts on what the rule does to suit their argument.
Katherine Lugar of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which petitioned the Senate for a vote on the rule, claims that it will have a “dramatic effect on American businesses’ ability to grow jobs.” But the idea that workers’ rights and the NLRB are causing our economic problems is absurd. Unions are a shrinking factor in the economy, and when they were at their strongest, the U.S. economy was at its strongest. Moreover, the NLRB has been around for more than 75 years, during which the United States experienced tremendous investment and job growth.
Meanwhile, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), the main sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 36 to block the union elections rule, is claiming it will “force employees to make the critical decision about whether or not to form a union in as little as seven to 10 days.” But this is just plain wrong. The rule does not specify a time frame for elections, but rather it helps ensure that workers who want a union election get one by addressing roadblocks that commonly are thrown up when the NLRB attempts to set up an election.
Enzi’s inaccurate claims don’t stop there. He also asserts that employers will be required to turn over workers’ email addresses and phone numbers to union organizers under the new rule. This is generally a good idea that allows organizers to communicate using modern technology, but it’s not a requirement of the final rule. A draft version of the regulations did consider these provisions, but the National Labor Relations Board did not include them.