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Republican Attack on Fair Union Election Rule Fails in Senate

Congressional Republicans today failed in their latest attempt to roll back workers’ rights. The U.S. Senate defeated (45-54) a measure (S.J. Res. 36) to kill a new National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule that makes modest changes in the procedures for workers who want to vote on whether to form a union. It also would have banned the NLRB from ever issuing any similar fair election rule.

Before the vote, the White House announced that President Obama opposed the Republican assault on workers and would veto the legislation if it got to his desk.

The administration is committed to supporting the right of workers to join and participate in a union and bargain for fair wages, benefits and a safe workplace.  These rights are fundamental to better conditions for American workers and to an open, just, economically fair and prosperous society. S.J. Res. 36 attacks these bedrock American values. 

Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), said of the Republican proposal:

It is disappointing that in the face of growing income inequality and stagnant wages for all but the highest earners, lawmakers would fail to stand by workers who seek only to exercise their legal rights in an atmosphere free of intimidation and retaliation.

The rule is due to take effect April 30 and it will help alleviate the delays, inefficiencies, abuse of process and unnecessary litigation that plague the current system. Under current rules, workers can be forced to wait months or even years before they are allowed to vote on joining a union and then begin bargaining for a fair contract. The new NLRB rule eliminates many of those roadblocks by reducing current delays and eliminating frivolous litigation.

Contrary to the vitriolic attacks by Republican lawmakers, the new rule does not encourage or discourage unionization and it applies to elections to form a union and elections to decertify a union.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the Republican attack on the NLRB ”is just the latest in this relentless series of nationally coordinated assaults on workers and collective bargaining rights.”

In an op-ed today in The Hill, John Logan, professor and director of Labor and Employment Studies at San Francisco State University, wrote:

Never in its history has the NLRB experienced anything quite like the political attacks of the past 15 months. But the root cause of the controversy is not, as [Republicans] would have us believe, that the board has moved to the left. Rather, the GOP has moved far to the right and no longer believes that workers should be free to select representatives of their own choosing and engage in collective bargaining to improve their terms and conditions of work.

In November, House Republicans approved a bill that gives employers new tools to combat and delay elections by workers who try to form unions. It was a direct response to the new NLRB election rule. The Senate didn’t take up the measure.

Congressional Republicans have made nearly 50 separate assaults on the NLRB since last year by holding hearings, issuing subpoenas and proposing bills to gut the agency’s funding and eliminate its ability to hold employers accountable for violating workers’ rights, according to American Rights at Work (ARAW). Click here for a detailed look.

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