WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives passed Rep. John Kline’s bill overturning a recent ruling from the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday.
Kline’s bill overturns a June ruling that allows union elections to take place 10 days after employees call for them. The bill is part of the House Republican jobs agenda revolving around removing government regulations to provide stability for the private sector. Like most pieces of that agenda, Kline’s bill passed on a nearly party-line vote, 235 to 188, and the bill is likely to never reach the Senate floor for consideration.
The legislation requires 35 days to pass before a union election can take place. Republicans say the bill makes it easier for employers to present their case against unionization and employees to learn as much as they can before casting a vote either way.
“The board’s scheme isn’t about modernizing the election process,” Kline said. “This is a draconian effort to stifle employer speech and ambush workers with a union election. Less debate, less information, and less opposition — that is Big Labor’s approach to workers’ free choice and it is being rapidly implemented by the activist NLRB.”
Most Democrats strongly opposed the legislation. Speaking out against the bill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi invoked President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who signed the bill originally forming the NLRB, and said it diminished the power of the board to protect a worker’s “freedom of choice and action which is justly his.”
“This legislation … will weaken our middle class and it will weaken our democracy,” she said.
Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison tied the bill to Republican efforts to repeal Environmental Protection Agency clean air standards.
“The Republicans’ jobs approach seems to be that workers and people who want to breathe” are to blame for the country’s weak economy, he said.
For about 10 minutes Wednesday afternoon, Minnesotans controlled the House floor as Kline and Democrat Tim Walz debated a proposed amendment to the bill.
The amendment, introduced by Walz, would stop the bill from applying to companies found to have violated labor laws aimed at protecting veterans — in other words, union elections could still take place within 10 days at those companies.
“These [violators] are not the good actors; these are the bad actors,” Walz said. “Why are we protecting the 1 percent of bad actors at the expense of our veterans?”
Walz and Kline, both veterans, went back and forth on the amendment. Walz said military personnel who are expected to make snap judgments on the battlefield can be trusted to quickly make a decision on unionization at home; Kline said the matter of unionization requires more deliberation than those settled in battle.
The 2nd District Republican said that while he was sympathetic to what Walz’s amendment tried to do, it is not fair for employees to have to make a decision on unionization as quickly as the NLRB would prefer, no matter the circumstances.
“Because an employer has misbehaved, they should be punished under the law,” he said. “But this amendment is an attempt to dismantle a successful union election process that is fair to veterans and non-veterans and fair to employees and employers.”
When the House eventually voted on the bill, the Walz amendment failed, 200-221, along with three other Democratic amendments.
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry