From IBTimes.com, International Business Times, Joe Wheeler, 22 Jun 2011.
The siege of Sacramento continued Tuesday as the United Farm Workers Union occupied the north steps of the Capitol building in a 12-day fast urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign into law the nation’s first “card check” legislation that would allow union organizers to use signature cards in place of on-the-job elections to unionize agricultural places of employment.
The fast began on June 16 with a dramatic march to the Capitol to deliver the bill, along with late labor leader Cesar Chavez’s chair, to Brown for signature.
As union supporters fasted on the west coast, union leaders in Washington D.C. hailed the National Labor Relations Board’s announcement Tuesday that it would dramatically reinterpret regulations governing union elections to make it easier and quicker for workers to form unions.
In a separate action, the U.S. Department of Labor announced on Monday a proposed rule change concerning employer’s use of labor relations consultants, effectively making it illegal for an employer to even talk with a consultant about unionizing issues without a lengthy disclosure process.
America’s employers are being squeezed in the middle.
The action in California centers on SB 104 – the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act – which would allow union organizers to petition the Agricultural Labor Relations Board to certify a union based on signed representation cards instead of an election featuring a secret ballot.
The union would be allowed to fill out the entire card minus the signature. Employers would be forced to turn over their employee rosters within 48 hours of the petition being filed while the union would have 30 days to gain more signatures if the petition was filled without a majority being represented. Failure to comply could mean employer fines of $10,000 a day.
In Washington, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeks to accomplish the same goal using a different approach. Currently, the NLRB rules allow for elections and hearings to happen in as little as 10 to 21 days after the filing of a petition versus the current time frame of 45 to 60 days.
Current labor law demands employers turn over their employee rosters after the election to verify if the election was valid. The new rule would force employers to present their company rosters before the election. An employers’ right to appeal NLRB Regional Director rulings to the Board would be eliminated, and the Board would gain the right to deny review of post-election rulings.
The decision was opposed by NLRB member Brian E. Hayes, who wrote, “By administrative fiat in lieu of Congressional action, the Board will impose organized labor’s much sought-after ‘quickie election’ option… Make no mistake, the principle purpose for this radical manipulation of our election process is to minimize, or rather, to effectively eviscerate an employer’s legitimate opportunity to express its views about collective bargaining.”
Where can employers targeted by union organizers turn? That remains undecided. The Labor Department’s proposed rule change on “advice” would make even speaking to an advisor a crime.
The California law will be signed, vetoed or left to expire by June 28.
The National Labor Relations Board proposal is open to comments for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register, with replies allowed for an additional 14 days. The Board plans one public hearing on the matter, to be held on either July 18 or 19.
The Labor Department will accept comments on its proposal through August 22.
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