The National Labor Relations Board currently consists of 3 members: 2 Democrats and 1 Republican. At the present time, 2 seats are vacant. The Republican member has threatened to resign so that there would not be a legal quorum, but has not done so. This past June, the NLRB published proposed amendments, which would make it quicker and easier for unions to organize in the workplace. On November 30, the NLRB, on a 2-1 vote along party lines, approved a Resolution to proceed with the new rules. The Resolution is not the law, but is a summary of what will soon be published as the Final Rules. In light of the fact that the Republican member's term expires on December 31, causing the NLRB to lose the ability to have a quorum, I anticipate that their will be a hard push to publish the Final Rules before year end. The changes that will speed up the union election process are:
Pre-election hearings can be limited by the hearing officer to whether a question of representation exists. With limited exceptions, this means that disputes concerning voter eligibility would be determined after the election.
The hearing officer will have to give express permission for parties to file post-hearing briefs.
The right to seek review of any rulings made concerning the appropriate bargaining unit and related items will not be allowed until after the election has taken place and the ballots counted.
The current regulations which provide a minimum of 25 days from the time the regional director directs an election to the time of the election itself, will be rescinded. This time period provided an opportunity for the NLRB to rule on a request for review if filed.
Permission to directly appeal to the NLRB will require a showing of "extraordinary circumstances".
The NLRB's review of a regional director's or judge's resolution of post-election disputes will be discretionary after both stipulated and directed elections.
The NLRB has posted an Explanation of Resolution on it's website.
Practice pointers. With private sector union membership at an historically low rate of 6.9%, labor organizations are pushing these changes to speed up the election process to deny employers the opportunity to educate their workforce as to the pros and cons of unionization. For employers, now is the time to determine if there is any discontent in the workplace, and if so, try to address the issues. If approved, which I think they will be, unions will once again begin campaigning to unionize as many workplaces as possible. With the Republican member dropping off the Board as of December 31,the NLRB will not have enough members to obtain a quorum, and the Democratic majority expects to vote before year end.