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How easy should it be to join a labor union?

The plaque of the National Labor Relations Board in Washington D.C.

The National Labor Relations Board proposed changes to the rules that govern how workers vote on whether or not to unionize. The new rules make it easier for workers to organize by allowing them to distribute information electronically and by shortening the election period.

Under the current system, if workers want to form a union they have to file a petition and then hold an NLRB-sanctioned election. Before the election is the appeals process. Labor organizers argue this system allow employers to delay elections.

The idea is to eliminate those tactical maneuvers,” says Thomas Kochan, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

The new rules would move the appeals process to after the election, thereby shortening the period between the petition and the election. 

The U.S. Chamber of commerce and other business groups oppose the rule change.

They feel like these rules are going to have the effect of silencing employers,” says Geoff Burr, Vice President of Government Affairs at The Associated Builders and Contractors, a trade group that represents 22,000 predominantly non-union construction businesses. 

The 5 member board of the NLRB is divided with three democrats in favor of the rule change and two republicans opposed.  Both sides will have 75 days to weigh in on the rule change before a public hearing in April.

About the author

David Weinberg is a general assignment reporter at Marketplace.

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