Producer to lawmakers: Union election rule change approaches free speech infringement

Sources: U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce; CP staff

“Unions have the advantage of subtly working behind the scenes for months without an employer’s knowledge to persuade employees to unionize. It is only fair that an employer be allowed the current time frame to accurately communicate with employees,” observed Wisconsin ready mixed producer John Carew at a Congressional hearing on National Labor Relations Board-proposed changes to narrow the petition for representation-to-election window for prospective rank & file.

“Employers are already at a disadvantage and under this new rule would be disadvantaged even further,” Carew added. “Drastically limiting any amount of employee/employer communication brushes too close to infringing on the freedom of speech rights of both parties.” He testified as president of Carew Concrete & Supply Co. in Appleton, Wis., and on behalf of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association at the July 7 hearing, “Rushing Union Elections: Protecting the Interests of Big Labor at the Expense of Workers’ Free Choice.”

House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) scheduled the hearing in response to a proposed NLRB rule that could narrow the union election representation window from its present average of 45–60 days. “Under the board’s proposal, a union election could occur in as little as 10 days,” he said. “Where Big Labor can’t convince workers to unionize through an open and fair process, the NLRB will step in to stifle an employer’s free speech and undermine an employee’s free choice.”

“The Board’s proposed rule assumes employers have no role to play in NLRB representation elections,” said Michael Litito of Jackson Lewis LLP, San Francisco. The proposal “all but shuts the door on employers providing critical information to employees about the petitioning union, collective bargaining and potential strikes is of no moment,” he added. “By depriving employees of views that are likely to be very different from the union’s, and information about the union that the union may be reluctant to divulge, the NLRB would impinge on employees’ right to make a free and informed choice. All this is calculated to hold elections before employees have an opportunity to think twice or perhaps even once.”

The “Rushing Union Elections” hearing will be followed by a July 18 open meeting at the NLRB headquarters in Washington, D.C. A public comment period on the Board’s Representation-Case Procedures proposal continues through August 22.