Obama Vetoes Joint Resolution to Block NLRB Quickie Election Rules

President Obama vetoed a joint resolution that sought to block the NLRB’s controversial amendments to policies for processing union representation cases. The President stated that he would not approve of any congressional legislation to overturn the NLRB’s amendments, what he considered “modest but overdue” reforms, to streamline union elections in the private sector. The Senate and House voted, on March 4 and 19 respectively, to pass a resolution blocking the NLRB from implementing the new “quickie” representation election process. The NLRB amendments will speed up the union election process, potentially allowing employees of a company to vote on union representation as soon as 11 days after filing a petition. Without further action, the rule will take effect April 14, 2015. For additional information regarding the NLRB’s Final Rule governing union representation­case procedure, see our client briefing NLRB Issues Final Rule Regarding Representation Cases.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed Senate Bill 44 making Wisconsin the nation’s 25th right­to­work state. Right­to­work laws generally prohibit agreements between unions and employers that require, as a condition of employment, union membership and payment of union dues, or payment by nonmembers of agency fees for the union’s expenses related to collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment. S.B. 44 specifically “prohibits a person from requiring, as a condition of obtaining or continuing employment, an individual to refrain or resign from membership in a labor organization, to become or remain a member of a labor organization, to pay dues or other charges to a labor organization, or to pay any other person an amount that is in place of dues or charges required of members of a labor organization.” Additionally, S.B. 44 specifies that any violations of the law be treated as a “Class A misdemeanor.”

The Illinois Attorney General sought to intervene in a matter filed in federal court by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner seeking to validate his executive order, which prohibits state agencies from collecting fair share fees from state employees who do not wish to fund union activities. The Illinois AFL­CIO and 26 unions representing state employees are also challenging the Governor’s executive order, arguing that the order exceeds Rauner’s constitutional authority.

The AFL­CIO announced it would freeze all political action committee donations to federal candidates, intensifying its position against the proposed Trans­Pacific Partnership trade deal. Under the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), a fast­track trade negotiating authority, Congress would detail negotiating priorities for the White House to follow during trade talks. In return, the White House will submit these deals for amendment­free votes when the negotiations are complete. The AFL­CIO’s executive council criticized TPA, arguing that such an arrangement would allow the White House to “unilaterally determine whether congressional trade objectives have been met.”

New Mexico Senate Democrats have essentially killed two right­to­work bills, which would have made it illegal to require employees to pay union fees as a condition of employment. However, Governor Susana Martinez (Rep.) may revisit the issue next year as right­to­work legislation is among her stated legislative priorities in the 2016 session.

Senator Johnny Isakson (R­ Ga.) introduced legislation, which would undo the NLRB’s 2011 decision in Specialty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center of Mobile. In Specialty Healthcare, the NLRB ruled that a subset of nursing assistants within a larger group of workers could vote for union representation without consulting the other employees. Republicans and business groups have opposed the Board’s decision in Specialty Healthcare, arguing that it overstepped its authority in overturning established precedent that requires it to determine whether there are other workers outside of micro­units, which may share a community of interests.

Rep. Jody Hice (R­Ga.), along with 13 Republican co­sponsors, introduced legislation, H.R. 1658, barring the use of “official time”—paid time spent by federal employees performing representational work for bargaining units in lieu of their regularly assigned work. The Federal Employee Accountability Act would prohibit federal employees from using official time to engage in collective bargaining or participate in arbitration on behalf of a federal employee who has brought a grievance against his or her agency. The bill has been referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.