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NLRB vote: Republicans furious over 'microwave' organizing for unions

The NLRB is set to vote Wednesday on 'microwave' organizing – a rule that would help unions organize more quickly and avoid employer interference. Republicans vow to block the move.

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The pro-union actions of the NLRB stand in contrast to more sweeping battles in the states, where emboldened Republicans have proposed a growing number of anti-union reforms in the past two years. The legislation includes attempts to limit automatic union-dues deductions from paychecks and to curtail collective-bargaining rights for public employees.

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In New Hampshire on Wednesday, state Republicans said they will attempt to overturn a gubernatorial veto of a law that would have made the Granite State the 23rd right-to-work state in the US. In right-to-work states, workers do not have to pay a fee to unions if they choose not to join, significantly undercutting union clout. Indiana Republicans say they plan to introduce bills next year to turn Indiana into a right-to-work state, as well. 

Those moves come despite a petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker (R) of Wisconsin for his role in pushing a bill that stripped many state public unions of their collective-bargaining rights. And earlier this month in Ohio, voters repealed a similar anti-union law that prohibited, among other things, workers from striking.

The NLRB vote on microwave unionizing is one check on the broader national attack on organized labor, union leaders say. “These are modest but important reforms to help ensure that workers who want to vote to form a union at their workplace get a fair opportunity to do so,” AFL-CIO spokesman Josh Goldstein told Bloomberg News. “We hope the board will adopt these measures tomorrow and quickly move to adopt the rest of its proposed reforms.”

The issue is expected to come to a head Wednesday. The five-seat NLRB currently has only three members – two Obama appointees and a Republican. The two Obama-appointed members were appointed during congressional recesses, while two other Obama appointees for the remaining open seats have yet to be confirmed by the Senate. 

If the NLRB approves the microwave provision, House Republicans say they'll pass a bill gutting it.

“Let’s be blunt here,” Republican Rep. John Kline of Minnesota said in a call with reporters Tuesday. “Elections have consequences. This is President Obama’s board, and he’s supporting this. If he’s not going to step in and put some reins on the board, we in Congress have to do everything we can to.”

But previous House bills to defund the NLRB and oppose its efforts against Boeing have gone nowhere in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

The NLRB's lone Republican, Brian Hayes, has threatened simply not to attend the meeting, which could mean the board wouldn't have a required quorum. In response, NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce said Wednesday morning that the rule could be modified so it would only affect organizing efforts that were held up by “needless litigation.”

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