NLRB rethinks 'quickie' union elections

A reconstituted National Labor Relations Board has taken the first step toward ending “quickie elections,” in which restaurants and other employees can have as little as two weeks to contend with employees’ call for union representation.

Rule changes that shortened the time before a vote on unionization were vehemently opposed by the industry before being adopted in 2014. Restaurateurs and other opponents argued at the time that employers would not have sufficient time to make their case for keeping out a union or address gripes that fostered the staff’s interest in organizing. Some took to describing the process as "ambush elections" because a vote could be scheduled so suddenly.

The NLRB said Tuesday that it will seek comment from the public through Feb. 12 about changing or rescinding what’s known as the 2014 Election Rule.

Before the change, the median time between an official filing for a union vote and the actual balloting was 38 days. The median time between petition and voting fell to 23 dates, and reports surfaced of the time being crunched to as few as 10 days.

The reconsideration of the 3-year-old rule change is the latest reflection of efforts to temper what was widely seen as a pro-labor stance by the NLRB. The five-person board now includes three Republicans, the first time in a decade the party has held a majority.

In addition, General Counsel Richard Griffin, the architect of such industry-opposed measures as reinterpretation of the joint-employer standard for franchisors, was succeeded by Peter Robb, an attorney known for representing employers.

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