Graham’s Planned Amendments Would Strike at NLRB Union Ruling`
June 14, 2012
Senate Republicans are once again attempting to use appropriations legislation to rein in the National Labor Relations Board, an agency that Sen. Lindsey Graham on Wednesday called “the Grim Reaper of job creation.”
At Thursday’s Senate Appropriations Committee markup of its draft fiscal 2013 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill, the South Carolina Republican intends to offer three labor-related amendments targeting recent rules and decisions by the agency.
The first Graham amendment would bar the NLRB from recognizing small groups of employees as bargaining units. In a decision last year, the board allowed for the creation of multiple smaller bargaining units — or “micro unions” — under a single employer, a move that Republicans contend would force employers to engage in longer and more costly labor negotiations.
The second amendment would forbid the agency from implementing a new rule designed to speed up union elections by postponing certain types of legal challenges until after the vote. The agency says the rule is necessary to prevent employers from deliberately delaying elections in order to persuade employees to reject joining a union. Business groups and Republicans say the rule violates employers’ rights by not giving them enough time to make their case.
Republicans have sought to undo these two NLRB rulings in a bill (HR 3094) that the House passed in November. That legislation has yet to be considered in the Democrat-controlled Senate, prompting Graham to sponsor his amendments.
Graham’s third amendment would uphold a state’s right to require secret-ballot union elections. Labor officials and Democrats have sought to make it easier to organize workers by promoting legislation that would allow employees to join a union by signing a card rather than holding an election, provided that enough of them sign. Four states, including South Carolina, have enacted legislation mandating an election.
The House has already adopted similar language in an amendment to its fiscal 2013 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill (HR 5326).
Last year, Graham introduced another appropriations amendment aimed at restricting the NLRB’s authority, but it was rejected. Democrats are unlikely to support such amendments this year.
Asked about Graham’s effort, Kate Frischmann, a spokeswoman for Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Labor- HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, called it “just more of the same Republican attacks on workers’ rights that we’ve seen again and again.”
Nevertheless, Graham is optimistic.
“The construct the NLRB has created here is so bad for business, and it just reeks of political payback, that there are going to be some Democrats who say this is just an untenable situation,” the senator said.
In particular, the NLRB’s micro-unions decision is “creating chaos for businesses,” Graham charged on Wednesday. “You can go and organize a handful of employees and hold the whole business hostage.”
The agency allowed certified nursing assistants at a health care facility to organize into a single bargaining unit. Since that decision, the NLRB has also recognized a bargaining unit composed of the employees of the shoe section at a department store.
Business groups have mobilized in support of Graham’s amendment, arguing that the ruling on small bargaining units would tie employees to particular jobs and make it hard for them to transfer from one position to another within the same company.
“The micro-unions decision overturns more than 50 years of precedent and would create division in the workplace, increase operational complexities and costs while also depriving employees of the flexibility and cross-training opportunities they seek,” 11 business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wrote in a June 12 letter.
The National Association of Manufacturers wrote to lawmakers Wednesday, saying the NLRB’s decision demonstrates its “commitment to pursue an activist agenda that threatens economic growth and jobs.”
“This agenda would burden manufacturers with harsh rules, making it harder to do business in the United States,” the NAM said.