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Bill overriding labor union rules passes

The U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday passed a bill that would override the National Labor Relations Board’s recent ruling to shorten the time frame for union elections and allow for the formation of micro-unions in the workplace.

Restaurant industry officials voiced concern that the NLRB — which resolves labor and management disputes — was attempting to resurrect key elements of the Employee Free Choice, or Card Check, Act, which had been sidelined earlier by Congress.

“[The unions] couldn’t get the Employee Free Choice Act passed, so it appears that they are taking it one step at a time,” said Rob Green, president of the National Council of Chain Restaurants. “This is an important piece of legislation. It would overturn NLRB action.”

Sponsored by John Kline, R-Minn., The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, or H.R. 3094, was passed by a vote of 234 to 188.

The bill would block the NLRB from changing union election procedures and shrinking the time frame to hold union elections from the current 38 or so days to 10.

“The NLRB scheme would require union elections to be conducted under unjust and unrealistically short time frames which would unfairly restrict the ability of business owners, small and large, to discuss this vitally important issue with their employees,” said a letter sent by members of the National Council of Chain Restaurants to their congressmen urging them to support H.R. 3094.

The National Restaurant Association voiced similar concerns.

“H.R. 3094 blocks the NLRB from moving forward with its ‘ambush’ election proposal allowing union representation elections to be held in as few as 10 days after the filing of a union petition,” said Scott DeFife, executive president of policy and government affairs for the NRA.

“This move would shorten the period between petition and elections to such a degree that it would deny employees the time and information needed to make an informed decision on union representation,” he said.

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Craig Miller, the former chief executive of Ruth’s Hospitality Group and a current candidate for the U.S. Senate in Florida, also weighed in on the issue. “The problem with shrinking the timeline for union elections is that it gives an enormous advantage to the union, who could be working behind the scenes for months, without the employer having any idea,” Miller said. “The change would make it nearly impossible for employers to negotiate in good faith and appeal to the union members.”

Proponents of the NLRB’s rule change said it would streamline the election process reducing delays in union elections. “The current rule is laden with unnecessary delays,” said NLRB chairman Mark Pearce. “[It] seeks to avoid multiple and unnecessary appeals in union elections, and does away with unnecessary waiting periods.”

H.R. 3094 also would block a recent NLRB decision to allow for the formation of micro-unions in workplaces and allow union organizers to target small groups of employees to join these mini-unions, the NCCR said.

The formation of micro-unions — which could contain as few as two employees — would impact an employer’s “ability to meet customer demands through flexible staffing as one set of micro-union employees could not perform work assigned to another micro-union within the workplace,” the NCCR said.

“The Kline bill would reverse the [NLRB’s] recent decision…which poses an immediate and direct threat by opening the door to swarms of micro-unions,” said Judith Thorman, International Franchise Association’s senior vice president for government relations and public policy.

The House bill still has to pass the U.S. Senate and be signed by President Obama to become law.

Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected].

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