Barack Obama, Labor, Obama Administration, President Obama, unions — April 1, 2015 at 10:46 am

President Obama smacks down Republican attempt to block new NLRB rule making it easier for workers to unionize


Last December, the National Labor Relations Board issued a new rule to “modernize and streamline the process” of forming a union.

The new rule:

  • Provides for electronic filing and transmission of election petitions and other documents;
  • Ensures that employees, employers and unions receive timely information they need to understand and participate in the representation case process;
  • Eliminates or reduces unnecessary litigation, duplication and delay;
  • Adopts best practices and uniform procedures across regions;
  • Requires that additional contact information (personal telephone numbers and email addresses) be included in voter lists, to the extent that information is available to the employer, in order to enhance a fair and free exchange of ideas by permitting other parties to the election to communicate with voters about the election using modern technology; and
  • Allows parties to consolidate all election-related appeals to the Board into a single appeals process.

Naturally, Republicans who never let a chance to protect Big Business from uppity workers and their petty attempts to organize, moved to block the new rule:

Senate Republicans sought Monday to employ the little-used Congressional Review Act in a bid to block the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from speeding up union elections.

The statute empowers Congress to overturn executive branch regulations it doesn’t like, provided enough lawmakers sign on to the effort.

A trio of top GOP lawmakers introduced a motion of disapproval against what they refer to as the NLRB’s “ambush” election rule, issued last year. […]

There is strong Republican support for the measure in both chambers, but those efforts are unlikely to overcome a White House veto. President Obama would likely block the motion of disapproval, and Republicans would have a difficult time finding enough Democratic support to overturn a veto.

Yesterday, President Obama came down on the side of workers and issued a “Memorandum of Disapproval” which is a public veto statement. Here is the full text of the Memorandum (emphasis by me):


S.J. Res. 8 would overturn the National Labor Relations Board’s recently issued “representation case procedures” rule and block modest but overdue reforms to simplify and streamline private sector union elections. Accordingly, I am withholding my approval of this resolution. (The Pocket Veto Case, 279 U.S. 655 (1929)).

Workers need a strong voice in the workplace and the economy to protect and grow our Nation’s middle class. Unions have played a vital role in giving workers that voice, allowing workers to organize together for higher wages, better working conditions, and the benefits and protections that most workers take for granted today. Workers deserve a level playing field that lets them freely choose to make their voices heard, and this requires fair and streamlined procedures for determining whether to have unions as their bargaining representative. Because this resolution seeks to undermine a streamlined democratic process that allows American workers to freely choose to make their voices heard, I cannot support it.

To leave no doubt that the resolution is being vetoed, in addition to withholding my signature, I am returning S.J. Res. 8
to the Secretary of the Senate, along with this Memorandum of Disapproval.


Before signing the Memorandum, President Obama made this statement, again giving his full-throated support for workers and their ability to form unions to bargain collectively on their own behalf:

Hello, everybody. Well, I am about to sign a memorandum of disapproval. A while back, the National Labor Relations Board, the NLRB, put forward some common-sense, modest changes to streamline the voting process for folks who wanted to join a union. And unfortunately, the Republican Senate and House decided to put forward a proposal to reverse those changes. I think that’s a bad idea.

Unions historically have been at the forefront of establishing things like the 40-hour work week, the weekend, elimination of child labor laws, establishing fair benefits and decent wages. And one of the freedoms of folks here in the United States is, is that if they choose to join a union, they should be able to do so. And we shouldn’t be making it impossible for that to happen.

So not only am I going to be signing this memorandum of disapproval; I also want to announce that in the fall we’re going to host a summit on increasing the voice and the rights of workers here in the United States. We’ve had a terrific economic recovery. We’re got more work to do. We’re finally seeing wages being to tick up after many consecutive years of job growth. Nevertheless, what’s true is, is that we’ve got record corporate profits. Folks at the very top are doing very well. Middle-class families and folks trying to work their way into the middle class still have some big difficulties.

And part of what we want to do is to make sure that we give workers the capacity to have their voices heard, to have some influence in the workplace, to make sure that they’re partners in building up the U.S. economy, and that growth is broad-based, and that everybody is benefiting just as everybody is contributing. So that’s something that I’m very much looking forward to. We’ll have a wide range of voices from the business community, from small businesses, from the workers in a wide range of fields — academics, organizers. Because I think that everybody here in America wants to make sure that even as the economy is growing, everybody is playing a part in that growth and everybody is sharing and contributing to that success.

So with that, let me sign this memorandum of disapproval. Thank you very much, everybody.

House Speaker John Boehner issued a statement saying, “The N.L.R.B.’s ambush election rule is an assault on the rights and privacy protections of American workers. With his veto, the president has once again put the interests of his political allies ahead of the small-business owners and hard-working Americans who create jobs and build a stronger economy.”

This is, of course, absurd. There’s nothing “ambush” about streamlining an election process so that it takes only a couple of weeks rather than over a month. And this is highly unlikely to impact “small-business owners” since small businesses are rarely union shops. As President Obama said, corporations are doing quite well right now, thank you very much, and it’s high time that workers are able to share a bit of that success in the form of higher wages and decent benefits.

Remember this the next time someone tells you there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans or that Barack Obama is in the pocket of Big Business.