Senate Democrats Side with Unions, Uphold Controversial NLRB Rule

Kate Hicks

4/24/2012 3:41:00 PM - Kate Hicks

Today, the sleepwalking Senate will wake briefly to vote on a measure that would nullify a controversial National Labor Relations Board rule set to take effect on April 30. Recall that back in early December, the NLRB passed a rule allowing "snap elections" for union membership. The rule's primary function was to cut down on the time between the announcement of a vote to unionize and the vote itself. Whereas previously, employers would have six weeks to present their case against unionization, those businesses now have only ten to fourteen days of persuasion.

Sen. Rand Paul (KY) summarized some of the major concerns over the rule in a Washington Times column: 

If, in fact, these rules are put into effect, labor unions will feel encouraged to start organizing drives in previously union-free workplaces, such as Target and Wal-Mart. But this is not something we should encourage. In fact, it is something we should strongly oppose and advise against. By implementing these regulations, we are ignoring the advice of bipartisan leaders. Then-Sen. John F. Kennedy in 1959 spoke of the importance of a “safeguard against rushing employees into an election where they are unfamiliar with the issue.” And today, the American people agree.

These rushed elections deny workers sufficient time to educate themselves about the effects of unionization and thus deny them the ability to make a fully informed decision. The new rules could subject hundreds of thousands of American workers to harassment and intimidation tactics administered by aggressive union organizers. These rules also give union organizers advantages and will allow them to target businesses they haven’t traditionally targeted, such as small businesses. These small-business owners will face additional costs and burdens. This is a lose-lose situation for American job creators and American jobs.

Most disturbingly, the law has also opened the door to granting unions unprecedented access to employees' personal information, such as home addresses. (So union goons can show up at individuals' homes and "persuade" them to vote for unionization? Hey, what could go wrong?)

Senate Republicans, led by Mike Enzi (WY), have introduced a "resolution of disapproval," which would nullify the rule and prevent its implementation next week. Sen. Paul also explains what this resolution would do:

I have co-sponsored a Congressional Review Act (CRA) introduced by Sen. Mike Enzi, Wyoming Republican, that would overturn this dangerous NLRB rule. I applaud Mr. Enzi’s efforts to challenge these new regulations and ambush-election rules. The CRA allows the Senate and House to introduce a joint resolution of disapproval. This disapproval is recognized by both chambers of Congress and thus carried forth with the full force of the law to stop a federal agency, such as the NLRB, from implementing unjust regulations and rules.

More than just the NLRB's rule is at stake here, however. Indeed, the rule has far-reaching consequences on business and job creation, and thereby on the economy as a whole. If the Senate allows for a board of presidential appointments to make such broad economic pronouncements, it will have relinquished even more legislative power to the executive. Such a sharply contested regulation ought not to come from unelected officials, out to serve a specific special interest. The only special interest that ought to be considered here is what's best for the economy -- and therefore, the American people -- and this rule simply isn't.

Update: The Senate Democrats, joined by Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), voted down the GOP-sponsored resolution of disapproval, thereby allowing the NLRB's rule to stand. However, some Democrats, already facing tough reelection battles, may now have to battle against accusations that they're anti-business:

The GOP measure had little chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate and faced a White House veto threat. But it forced some Democrats who face tough re-election bids to take a stand on an issue that has riled business groups.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers designated the vote a "key vote" - used to score members of Congress each year on their records.