Let’s Put an End to the “Ambush Election” Rule

This op-ed column was originally published at WashingtonExaminer.com

By Lamar Alexander

In an ideal world, no member of Congress would ever need to introduce a bill that would put in statute the rights of working men and women, and certainly not a bill that would protect workers from the overreach of federal agencies intended to help them.

But over the last seven years, we have seen both in federal regulations and in decisions by the National Labor Relations Board that the American worker is coming in second behind the labor union.

Congress should pass the Employee Rights Act to help restore some fairness for our workers.

For example, passing this bill would get rid of the NLRB’s ambush election rule, which can force a union election in as little as 11 days, before an employer and many employees even have a chance to figure out what is going on.

Last year, I introduced, and the Senate passed, a resolution to prevent the ambush election rule from going into effect. The measure also passed the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, the president vetoed the resolution.

This rule is bad for employers, but it is worse for workers.

It sacrifices every worker’s right to privacy.

The rule does that because it forces employers to hand over an employee’s personal information, like email addresses and work locations, so union organizers can track them down, regardless of whether the employee wants anything to do with it.

Because of the speed of this ambush, employees hear only half of the story about what unionizing will mean for them and their workplace.

Two NLRB members who dissented from the rule said employees will be asked to “vote now, understand later.”

When a workplace is unionized, especially in a state that has no right-to-work law, employees have dues money taken out of every paycheck, whether they like it or not.

They no longer deal directly with their employer to address concerns or ask for a raise, and instead must work through the union.

Important considerations, like which of their fellow employees will be included in the bargaining unit, is no longer determined before the election.

This rule appeared to be a solution in search of a problem, and it is already shortening the time between a petition and election.

In fiscal 2014, only 4.3 percent of union elections occurred more than 56 days after the petition-filing, and the “median” number of days between a filing and an election was just 38 days. These figures were well within the NLRB’s own goals for timely elections.

Unions won 69 percent of elections in fiscal 2015. In recent years, the union win rate has actually been going up.

In a 1959 debate over amendments to the National Labor Relations Act, then-Sen. John F. Kennedy warned against rushing employees into an election, saying:

“There should be at least a 30-day interval between the request for an election and the holding of the election … in which both parties can present their viewpoints.”

It is clear to see that this rule is wrong. Passing the Employee Rights Act will end it.

Lamar Alexander represents Tennessee in the U.S. Senate, chairing the Senate committee overseeing labor and education policy.