Proposed changes to union rules divide U.S. business, labor

Thu Apr 10, 2014 3:55pm EDT
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By Amanda Becker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. union organizers squared off against powerful business interests on Thursday over whether proposed federal rule changes for union organizing are an overdue procedural update or a radical step that would put employers at a disadvantage.

The U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Thursday and Friday is hearing input from unions, workers and businesses on the board's proposals to modernize its rules for union elections, which includes allowing electronic signatures and expediting pre-election hearings.

Employers, backed by their trade associations and lobbying groups, have said the NLRB's plan will allow union organizers to hold so-called "ambush elections" that would give companies little time to respond.

Unions and worker advocates have said this doomsday scenario is hyperbole.

The NLRB's priority is protecting the right of workers to organize and improve working conditions, not weighing the power balance between unions and employers, Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld attorney Caren Sencer told the board Thursday.

"It is not an agency designed to balance interests," said Sencer, who represents unions and workers in employment disputes.

The NLRB is an 80-year-old federal agency that oversees union elections, protects workers' rights to take collective action and polices unfair labor practices in the private sector.

Three Democrats and two Republicans serve on the board.   Continued...

Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers from District 751 count votes at their union hall in Seattle, Washington during a vote for officers April 3, 2014. REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight