On Tuesday, May 14, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia invalidated the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) recent rulemaking changing the procedures governing union elections. The rule, which became effective on April 30, has been commonly referred to as the “quick election” rule because its purpose is to shorten the period between the filing of a petition and the representation election in union organizing drives. Judge Boasberg ruled that the five-seat NLRB did not have a proper quorum when it approved the quick election rule in December 2011. In nullifying the quick election rule, union elections must proceed according to the old rules.
The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), of which SHRM is a member, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce brought the suit to the federal court. SHRM filed an amicus brief supporting the CDW and Chamber of Commerce challenge to the rule. SHRM has opposed the quick election rule because it would artificially and unnecessarily speed the union election process. The NLRB’s own Fiscal Year 2011 annual report revealed that the median time from a representation petition to an election was 38 days last year, and that over 91% of all elections were conducted within 56 days of the filing of the petition. These reasonable amounts of time prior to union elections generally give employees a chance to gather the information they need to make an informed choice on representation by a labor organization.
SHRM is pleased with the court’s ruling, but the victory may be short-lived. While the NLRB must return to administering union elections according to the prior rules, it can vote to adopt the quick election rule again with a “properly constituted” quorum. The Board currently has a full contingent of five members, and thus could re-approve the rule soon.