U.S. labor board eyeing changes to Trump-era union election rules

The seal of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The seal of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C.. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Proposed election rules could come as soon as September
  • Trump-era rules seen as harming unions
  • Agency also eyeing expanded rights for contract, franchise workers

(Reuters) - The National Labor Relations Board said on Tuesday that it will soon propose changes to Trump-era rules that were designed to slow down the union election process and have been heavily criticized by unions.

The NLRB in a new regulatory agenda, which outlines forthcoming rulemaking priorities, said it could propose new election procedures as soon as September.

A set of rules adopted by the board in 2020 changed certain deadlines and other procedural requirements, with the effect of drawing out elections for additional days or weeks. A longer election process is typically seen as a disadvantage to unions.

The Trump-era rules also eliminated a common tactic unions had used to delay elections on whether to dissolve existing bargaining unions by filing unfair labor practice complaints against employers.

Under the 2020 rules, the complaints known as "blocking charges" are only resolved after an election is held, instead of before. That has been seen as a boon to workers who oppose their unions and want to decertify them.

The NLRB, which now has a Democratic majority, on Tuesday also said it could propose a highly anticipated rule as soon as next month on companies' liability for labor law violations by their contractors and franchisees. The board had said in December that it was considering a new rule on so-called "joint employment."

The Trump-era board had adopted a business-friendly rule limiting employers' liability in 2020, which was a shift from the Obama-era NLRB's broad view on when a company can be a joint employer.

Unions and worker advocates have criticized the 2020 rule, saying it leaves many contract and franchise workers without legal protections.

The issue is important for franchisors like McDonald’s Corp and Burger King Corp and the many companies that utilize staffing agencies, because joint employers can be made to bargain with unions and found liable for violating workers' rights to organize.

Read more:

U.S. labor board limits companies' liability for franchisee labor-law violations

NLRB adopts rules making it easier for workers to reject unions

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.