Three years ago, federal officials overhauled the way union elections proceed in the workplace, streamlining the process to give employers less time to pressure workers not to join. The reform was long sought by labor groups who hoped the changes could make it a little easier to unionize.
But now, President Donald Trump has reshaped the National Labor Relations Board, the agency that oversees union elections. With a new conservative majority, the board is considering scrapping the worker-friendly reforms from the Obama years and bringing back the system that employers were fond of.
On Tuesday, the agency published a notice in the Federal Register soliciting feedback on the union election rules. The board asked whether it should keep the current rules in place, tweak them or simply revert to the old ones. Tellingly, it was the three Republican board members who’d approved the notice, while the two Democratic members disapproved.
One of those Democrats, Mark Gaston Pearce, issued a sharp dissent on the move, saying the “Notice and Request for Information” was really a “Notice and Quest for Alternative Facts.” He wrote that agency staff had poured thousands of hours of work into carefully updating the election rules back in 2014 and that the dire warnings his conservative colleagues had made about the rule changes hadn’t come to pass.
“It is indeed unfortunate that when historians examine how our Agency functioned during this tumultuous time,” Pearce wrote, “they will have no choice but to conclude that the Board abandoned its role as an independent agency and chose to cast aside reasoned deliberation in pursuit of an arbitrary exercise of power.”
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