Business groups contend that a resolution approved by the National Labor Relations Board on Nov. 30 would prove problematic for employers. Unions counter that the proposal, drafted by the labor panel's chairman, Mark Gaston Pearce, would streamline the election process and create a more level playing field for employees.

The NLRB voted 2-1 to move forward with a proposal to amend certain representation election procedures to reduce unnecessary litigation in disputed cases. The Democrats on the panel, Pearce and Craig Becker, voted in favor of the proposal, while Brian Hayes, the lone Republican, voted no. The panel will now draft a final rule that the board must vote on and approve before it can go into effect.

Hayes said that, prior to the vote, he had considered resigning because of his concerns about the proposal. However, he opted not to quit so that he could still have a say in the development of the rule. He said, "This is a fundamentally flawed rule. It is a product of a flawed process."

Becker and Pearce said the changes were necessary to avoid unnecessary litigation and to make the board more efficient. Key provisions included delaying appeals relating to pre-election issues until after an election is held and eliminating the waiting period between the pre-election appeal and the actual election.

The Associated Builders and Contractors opposes shortened election periods. Geoff Burr, ABC vice president of government affairs, estimates that Pearce's resolution would cut the election process, normally about 40 days, nearly in half. Unionization should not be taken lightly, he says, and this resolution ultimately would result in employee decisions that are "less thoughtful and less informed."

But Bill Samuel—legislative director for the AFL-CIO, which favors a revised process—says the resolution "eliminates some of the tools that anti-union employers have used for decades to string out the election process." Noting that Becker's term expires at the end of the congressional session, Samuel adds, "It's a modest effort, but it's well worth doing. We expect it to get done this year."