A coalition of industry groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit in federal court on Dec. 20 to block implementation of a new National Labor Relations Board rule that they say would speed up the union election process.

The rule by the nation’s top labor panel would, among other things, consolidate all appeals of regional director decisions to the Board into a single post-election request for review. Parties can currently appeal regional director decisions to the board at multiple stages in the process.

 “This rule is about giving all employees who have petitioned for an election the right to vote in a timely manner and without the impediment of needless litigation,” said NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce.

But while AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka hails the rule as a “modest but important” reform, business groups say the rule would cut the election time roughly in half, to about 14-21 days, and ultimately limit both employers’ free speech and employees’ ability to make a thoughtful decision.

“It’s no secret that the board was racing to beat the clock and finalize this rule before controversial recess appointee Craig Becker’s term expired at the end of this year,” says Geoff Burr, vice president of federal affairs for the Associated Builders and Contractors. “What’s most disturbing is that the NLRB continues to move forward with policies and rules that are a political payoff to Big Labor, yet harm the construction industry and stifle job growth,” he says.

The rule, published in the Dec. 22 Federal Register, is a modification to a broader proposal issued in June 2011 and will go into effect in April 2012.