WASHINGTON (AP) — The
Senate rejected a Republican attempt Tuesday to overturn new
regulations designed to give unions quicker representation elections in
their effort to organize more workplaces.
The 54-45, largely party
line vote against a resolution of disapproval leaves intact National
Labor Relations Board rules that are scheduled to take effect April 30.
Unions had sought the rules changes while business groups opposed them.
Senate Democrats unanimously supported the new regulations. Alaska Sen.
Lisa Murkowski was the only Republican supporting them.
existing regulations, workers typically vote within 45-60 days after a
union gathers enough signatures from workers saying they want to hold an
election. The new rules could cut that time by days or even weeks by
simplifying procedures and putting off some challenges until after the
election is held, cutting back hearings and reducing legal delays.
call the changes a modest fix to prevent companies from using stalling
tactics to delay a vote while workers can be subject to harassment,
threats and even illegal firing. Republicans argue the new rules will
lead to "ambush" elections that barely leave company managers enough
time to respond or counsel against forming a union.
The NLRB has
been the focus of intense partisan bickering since President Barack
Obama gave the independent agency its first Democratic majority in
nearly a decade. The board has issued a number of rules and decisions
that tend to favor unions over business interests.
Labor Relations Board seems to be hell bent on changing processes across
the board more for political reasons than for substantive reasons,"
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said during floor debate.
Democrats said the rules address some of the most abusive situations
where companies manipulate procedures to conduct anti-union campaigns.
the board has done is to send a clear message to employers: you can't
abuse the process to buy yourself more time to intimidate workers," said
Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, Democratic chairman of the Senate Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions committee.
The new rules could help
unions expand in the private sector, where membership has dwindled to
about 6.9 percent of all workers. Retailers like Target and Wal-Mart are
concerned that the new rules will encourage unions to step up
organizing at their stores.
"With only about 5 percent average
unionization, retailers are low-hanging fruit for union organizers,"
said David French, a vice president of government relations for the
National Retail Federation.
The GOP measure had little chance of
passing the Democratic-controlled Senate and faced a White House veto
threat. But it forced some Democrats who face tough re-election bids to
take a stand on an issue that has riled business groups.
Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers
designated the vote a "key vote" — used to score members of Congress
each year on their records.
Senate Republicans plan to vote on
another resolution of disapproval later this year to overturn an
Environmental Protection Agency rule that set the first national air
pollution standards for toxic mercury pollution from the nation's power
The tactic to nullify regulations has succeeded only once
before. In 2001, Congress repealed ergonomic regulations that had been
approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Follow Sam Hananel's labor coverage on Twitter at http://twitter.com/shananel
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.