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Republicans seek to rein in NLRB

By Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner

Republican House members introduced two bills Tuesday intended to roll back recent rules changes by the National Labor Relations Board, the main federal labor law enforcement agency.

The lawmakers argue the board under former President Barack Obama's administration tilted too far in favor of unions.

"Workers deserve the opportunity to make a fully informed decision on whether or not to join a union, and that's exactly what this legislation is about," said Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich. "After years of an activist agenda by the NLRB that weakened the rights of workers and employers, it's time to restore common sense to union elections."

The chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee's subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions introduced legislation dubbed the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act. The bill would roll back a labor board rule that shortened the time period from when the board authorizes a workplace vote on unionizing to when it was scheduled. The board shortened the period to as little as 11 days in a 2014 rulemaking, down from about a month previously. Walburg's legislation would allow the vote no earlier than 35 days after authorization. His legislation also would specify that the vote must involve the entire workplace, and not just one part of it, addressing another change the board made.

In conjunction with Walburg's legislation, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., introduced the Employee Privacy Protection Act, which would roll back a rule requiring employers to give unions seeking to organize their business all worker contact information, regardless of whether the employees authorize it. Wilson's bill limits employers to giving the unions "not more than one additional form of personal contact information of the employee, (such as telephone number, email address, or mailing address) chosen by the employee in writing."

House Education and Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., indicated she would take up the bills soon. "The decision to join or not join a union is a personal one, and workers deserve time and privacy as they decide what's best for them," she said.

Unions backed the changes, arguing the board was merely acting to prevent union-busting by managers. The new rules appeared to have an impact. The labor board presided over 1,628 private-sector workplace elections in 2015, of which the petitioning unions won 1,128 for a 69-percent success rate, according to a 2016 report by Bloomberg BNA. That was the highest win rate for organized labor in a decade and the second-highest in the last two decades. Overall, the elections netted unions 62,000 new members.

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