Sen. Franken Blasts GOP Anti-Union Measure Reversing NLRB Rule

Republicans controlling the U.S. Senate are trying to reverse a new National Labor Relations Board rule that would shorten the time between a union’s request for representation and the vote on whether to certify a union.

The measure passed on a 53-45 party-line vote. But President Obama has said he will veto it if it reaches his desk.

Senator Al Franken (DFL-Minnesota) expressed his disapproval of striking down NLRB reforms which he said modernize and streamline the election process in which workers choose whether or not to form a union.

“The resolution before us today is not only misplaced, it is also misguided. This resolution would do the opposite of empowering workers.

“The purpose of this resolution is to block rules that will modernize a broken election process. Because that election process is broken, it’s preventing workers from exercising a basic right that they’re supposed to have in the workplace – the right to have a seat at the bargaining table.

“Too often, loopholes are being exploited to prevent workers the freedom to decide if they want to form a union. Today, thirty-five percent of the time that workers file a petition for a union election, they never even get to have an election. The ten percent of litigated cases that this rule targets for reform take over six months on average to get to an election, and some elections can be delayed for years.”

Franken noted that he has been a member of three unions himself. “I’ve seen first-hand how important it is for workers to have a voice in their workplace.”

Republicans say the new policy would allow unions to force “ambush elections” that limit the ability of employers to make the case against a union.

Text of Franken’s floor speech

(As prepared for delivery)
I rise today to oppose this resolution, which would overturn modest, but vitally important updates to the process that enables workers to exercise their rights to join a labor union.

Today’s attack on the NLRB’s rule to modernize its election process is misplaced and misguided. Today, middle-class families are struggling with wages not keeping up with expenses, while large corporations make record profits and those at the top are doing better and better. But our economy doesn’t grow from the top-down, it grows from the middle-out. Our economy is strongest when we have a thriving middle class, with a strong voice in the workplace.

And that’s why we should be talking about how to restore basic workplace fairness to middle-class Americans and those aspiring to join the middle class. To me, that means if you work full-time, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty. It means making sure that moms and dads don’t have to choose between keeping their jobs and taking a few hours to take their sick child to the doctor.

Those are the sorts of things we should focusing on. And in fact, if we want to accomplish those things, we need to strengthen the voices of regular Americans in the workplace. And the NLRB representation rule takes a small but important step toward strengthening those voices.

That’s why the resolution before us today is not only misplaced, it is also misguided. This resolution would do the opposite of empowering workers.

The purpose of this resolution is to block rules that will modernize a broken election process. Because that election process is broken, it’s preventing workers from exercising a basic right that they’re supposed to have in the workplace – the right to have a seat at the bargaining table.

Too often, loopholes are being exploited to prevent workers the freedom to decide if they want to form a union. Today, thirty-five percent of the time that workers file a petition for a union election, they never even get to have an election. The ten percent of litigated cases that this rule targets for reform take over six months on average to get to an election, and some elections can be delayed for years.

That’s why workers need this rule to ensure a fair, effective process, free of excessive delays. Some of the updates in the rule simply standardize best practices that are already being used in some parts of the country. For example, in some regions of the country, hearings are regularly scheduled to be held seven days after the petition is filed and petitions are accepted by fax. Also, under the representation rule workers and companies can file documents electronically, bringing the process up to date with 21st century technologies. It also increases transparency in the election process – everyone involved, from workers petitioning for an election to companies to the NLRB itself, has to provide information to the other parties earlier in the process and in more complete form.

Now, nothing in this new rule will change an employer’s right to express its support or opposition to a union. Nothing in the new rule will change an employer’s ability to communicate with workers – from their first day on the job – if the employer opposes collective bargaining in the workplace for better wages and working conditions.

Modernizing and streamlining the process by which workers exercise their rights to join a union should not be controversial. Under the National Labor Relations Act, our laws explicitly recognize the rights of employees to engage in collective bargaining through representatives of their own choosing. As a member of three unions myself, I’ve seen first-hand how important it is for workers to have a voice in their workplace.

And the evidence shows that being a member of a union can have a tremendous impact on the lives of real people and their families. Workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement are paid more on average than those not covered. Unionized workers are also more likely to have health care, retirement, and paid leave benefits than other workers.

So again, the changes made by the election rule are common-sense updates that will support those important objectives. I urge my colleagues to oppose this resolution so that these common sense reforms are able to ensure a fairer election process for everyone. Thank you.

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

Comments are closed.