By MELANIE TROTTMAN
Wall Street Journal
A federal-district court has upheld a National Labor Relations Board rule that is expected to speed union-organizing elections, a blow to several business trade groups that sued to block it.
The rule allows petitions and other documents to be filed electronically instead of by mail and generally delays employer legal challenges to elections until after workers have cast their votes. It also requires employers to provide unions with personal email addresses of workers they have on file.
Plaintiffs, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, filed suit early this year to block the rule, alleging it overstepped the board’s authority and violated federal law by curbing an employer’s right to communicate with employees about the organizing process. Congressional Republicans likewise said the rule could limit the time employers have to counter union-organizing campaigns.
The court consolidated the businees groups’ lawsuit with another similar action filed by Baker DC, LLC and three of its employees.
A politically divided NLRB adopted the rule in December in a 3-2 vote supported by the three Democrats seated at the time. They said they supported the procedure because the process needed streamlining and modernizing. The rule went into effect on April 14.
Some legal experts have said the rule will shorten the time between a formal call for a vote, and the election itself, to 25 days or less. That is nearly two weeks less than the 2013 median of 38 days in uncontested cases.
Unions, beset by years of dwindling membership numbers, said the changes were needed to counter employer intimidation and stall tactics.
In the written ruling dated July 29, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said plaintiffs complained the rule promoted speed in holding elections “at the expense of all other statutory goals and requirements.” But she said that argument “presupposes that the lone goal of the Final Rule was speedier elections, and that is not the case.”
The judge also said expedition is a valid concern “well within the Board’s purview.”
The other plaintiffs in the case included the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Retail Federation, and the Society for Human Resource Management.
Several of the groups criticized the ruling on Thursday. National Association of Manufacturers Senior Vice President and General Counsel Linda Kelly said the ruling jeopardizes “not only an employer’s time to prepare, and an employee’s ability to make an informed decision, but also the protection of private, personal information.”
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the group believes the decision “conflicts with the intent of Congress” and that the group will continue to work for a solution.
A spokeswoman for the NLRB declined to comment.