video via The Uptake
U.S. Sen. Al Franken took a stand Tuesday against a Republican-led effort to block reforms poised to streamline and modernize the process for determining union representation in most workplaces.
In a speech on the Senate floor, the Minnesota DFLer defended new rules approved by the National Labor Relations Board last year. The changes, set to take effect April 14, include allowing petitions for union elections to be filed online, consolidating the post-election appeals process and requiring equal access to voter contact lists for management and the union.
“Workers need this rule to ensure a fair, effective process, free of excessive delays,” Franken said.
But a resolution, passed by the Republican-controlled Senate on a party-line vote, would use the Congressional Review Act to thwart NLRB reform. If both the House and Senate pass a resolution disapproving of the rule, it would go to the president, who could then overturn the rule or veto the resolution.
Even if the president exercises his veto to uphold the rule, business groups are already challenging it in court.
That’s no surprise, Franken said, as employers long have been exploiting the old system, using stall tactics and endless appeals to prevent workers from exercising their rights.
“Too often, loopholes are being exploited to prevent workers the freedom to decide if they want to form a union,” he said. “Today, 35 percent of the time that workers file a petition for a union election, they never even get to have an election.”
The floor speech was not Franken’s first act of support for workers’ right to a better organizing process. In January, he and 15 other senators signed onto a letter urging the NLRB to “stand strong against efforts to undermine” the reforms.
“Workers deserve to have a union representation election process that is free of stalling tactics and intimidation,” the senators wrote to NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce. “We believe this rule will restore balance and certainty to the union election process and strongly encourage you to vigorously defend this rule in the face of such challenges.”
UPDATE 03/20/15: The House also passed the resolution, meaning the fate of the rule changes – for now – is up to President Obama. In a statement released yesterday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called on the president to exercise his veto power:
Today’s vote by House Republicans against the NLRB’s common-sense modernization of its election rules is a direct attack on workers and their right to be heard in the workplace.
Working men and women want an agenda from their Congressional leaders that raises wages and grows our middle class. Instead, they have gotten Republican policies that roll back progress and silence workers while protecting their biggest donors.
President Obama is right in his commitment to vetoing this harmful legislation, and Congressional Republicans should focus their efforts on lifting workers up instead of shutting them out.