Thursday, December 22, 2011

The NLRB flexes its rulemaking authority … and business groups flex right back

Yesterday, the NLRB announced that it had formally adopted a final rule amending its election case procedures. The rule is set to take effect April 30, 2012. Among other changes, this new rule significantly shortens the time between when a representation petition is filed and an election is held. For this reason, the rule is known as the “ambush election” rule. According to the NLRB, this new rule is intended to “reduce unnecessary litigation and delays.” In reality, it’s an alternate route to achieve higher union representation rates following Congress’s failure to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

As quickly as the NLRB announced its adoption of the final rule, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced that it had filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to block them. From the Chamber’s press release announcing the filing:

The Chamber’s lawsuit explains that the National Labor Relations Board’s final “ambush election rule” imposes unprecedented and sweeping changes to the procedures for conducting workplace elections to determine whether employees do or do not wish to unionize. The rule drastically speeds up the election process, depriving employers of a fair opportunity to explain to employees the costs of unionizing and curbing employers’ opportunities to bring legal challenges to proposed representation elections.

This lawsuit joins two others that challenge a different aspect of the NLRB’s claimed rulemaking authority—its workplace rights poster, which is scheduled to become mandatory on January 31, 2012. In one of those cases, the assigned federal judge has asked the NLRB to delay its posting requirement to provide her more time to consider the challenge before her.

These are important issues that will affect all private sector employers, and which bear watching as they work their way through the court system. (Of course, if the Republican take back the White House in 2012, all of this administrative wrangling likely becomes moot).