Floor Updates

Boxer, Graham, Harkin, Enzi

Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill (S. 1925)/NLRB Ambush Union Elections Rule Resolution of Disapproval (S. J. Res. 36)

Apr 24 2012

11:12 AM

Senator Boxer: (10:21 AM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "I'm very pleased with what just happened. I'm very pleased that we see the continuation over here of bipartisan support for a transportation bill. We have Senator Reid working together with Senator McConnell to name the conferees. And we had a unanimous vote in our committee last year on this bill, and it has been a very tortured path to get to where we are now because for some inexplicable reason the Republicans over on the House have insisted on just going to their own party to reach agreement rather than going to the democrats so we can have bipartisanship over there. I am very hopeful that with the naming of these conferees today the House will now do its job and name conferees, and I've been reading in the press perhaps tomorrow. So I am very hopeful for that . And there's no reason why we can't do that very soon when so much is at stake. The Senate bill is a reform bill. There are no earmarks in that bill. That bill is fully paid for. It doesn't add to the deficit. It protects two million jobs and creates another million jobs. What good news will it be for this economy to have this bill pass? And I know there are those who have predicted this could never happen. A, we'd never get a bipartisan bill out of our committee. We did it. B, we'd never get it to pass the floor. We did it with 74 votes. And then, c, the House will never act and the House actually did act to move to conference. It took them a long time, but we're there. And there is no reason why we cannot work together to get this done."
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill.
    • SUMMARY "The Violence Against Women Act is what we call a no brainer. It's a serious problem in our nation. Senator Reid said that three women are killed every day because of violence against women. The shelters in our states are doing incredible work. They take in women, children. They make sure that there's protection, crack down on the violators. And there's no reason to argue about that."
  • Spoke on the Obama economy.
    • SUMMARY "You know, I've noticed that almost every time Senator McConnell has a chance on the Senate floor, he comes and attacks President Obama, and he goes after President Obama and blames him for everything under the sun. I have to say I support Senator McConnell's right to say whatever he wants to say. He has every right to use his leadership power to attack the President and do it as much as he wants. So I'm not complaining about that. But I'm just saying it's very unfortunate for this country that the Republican leader in the Senate said - and I quote - I'm not quoting directly the word but this is what he said, that his mission in the United States Senate is to make President Obama a one-term President. The things he blames the President for are unbelievable. The way he attacks the President for being out around the country, he doesn't attack the republican candidates for President for traveling around the country. Let's face it, it's a few months until the election. Does he expect the President to stay in the White House? I'm glad the President is getting outside. I'm glad the President is making speeches. I'm glad the President is fighting for students. I'm glad the President is fighting for senior citizens. I'm glad the President is fighting for small business. I'm glad he's fighting for fairness. Why should a billionaire pay a lower tax rate than his secretary? I'm glad this President is doing all of that. And to hear him attacked day after day after day is absolutely discouraging, when we have so much work we can do here, that we can talk about in our leader time. But I've decided I'm going to follow this. And every time Senator McConnell does this, I'm going to use my privileges as a senator to come down. Let's never forget, this President inherited the worst economy since the great depression from a Republican President who left us bleeding 800,000 jobs a month, who left us with an auto industry flat on its back, who left us with a credit system that was frozen. And this President, through his leadership, stepped up and led us out of that mess. And the other voices, the naysayers said let Detroit go bankrupt. Just stay out of everything. And this President didn't listen because he's a fighter for change."

Senator Graham: (10:35 AM)
  • Spoke on the NLRB Ambush Union Elections Rule Resolution of Disapproval.
    • SUMMARY "The National Labor Relations Board, seems to be hell-bent for changing process across the board more for political reason than substance reason. What brings us here today is the rule making proposal to change the time for union elections, for employees who vote on whether or not they want to be part of a union. It does away with the pre-election consultation, the idea of employer and the union setting, and the people who want to represent the employees, sitting down to see if they can work out a proposal or compromise. It shortens the election time to as little as ten days. So if you're in the company in question, you have a ten-day period before the election. The current mean average is 38 days. So I would argue this is being done not though make things more efficient but to change outcomes. Really, quite frankly, the outcome being desired here is to make the union position stronger, not to make the system more efficient. And that's what happens. I expect a Republican President to nominate people to the board like the NLRB with a business background. I expect a Democratic President to nominate people to the NLRB and like boards with maybe a more union background. But I expect the board not to take the agency and turn it into a political organization, and try to create by rule making what you can't create by legislating. And that's what brings us here today. The whole complaint filed by the machinists union in Washington, taking that complaint up, that the move to South Carolina was somehow in retaliation against the union in Washington when no one lost their job in the state of Washington, no one's pay was reduced, I think was taking the NLRB into an area it's never gone before. This is just a continuation of that pattern, and this is not good because the unelected aspect of our government, the NLRB and like agencies, have a lot of sway over our economy. At a time when we're trying to make sure we create jobs in America and make it easier for people to locate their companies here, proposals like this, I think, are undercutting what we need to be doing. And this is an unprecedented move. This kind of breathtaking change in the rules has only happened, I think, two or three times. And this is proposed, as Mr. Becker was on the way out. So Congress and their administrative review act has an opportunity here to stop this before it's too late. And what this is being called on our side is sort of an ambush election. The point we're trying to make is by changing this rule to a ten-day period, doing away with pre-election negotiations creates an environment where people are having to cast votes and not understanding who is going to be representing them or the nature of their decision. Why do you want to shorten an election? Why do you want to do away with the ability to negotiate between the employer and people that want to represent the employees? So I don't see that this is addressing a problem that exists. I think this is more motivated by getting an outcome rather than reforming a process."

Senator Harkin: (10:43 AM)
  • Spoke on the NLRB Ambush Union Elections Rule Resolution of Disapproval.
    • SUMMARY "The number of union representation elections has declined by an astounding 60% between 1997 and 2009. When workers do file for an NLRB election, 35% give up in the face of extreme employer intimidation and withdraw from the election before a vote is even held. That's after they've already signed - the card is signed - they've signed up to petition for the NLRB to have an election. One-third of them never get to an election. Now, the rule we're discussing today can't solve all of these problems, but as I said yesterday, it is a step in the right direction. It addresses some of the most abusive situations where unscrupulous companies are manipulating the process so they can intimidate workers. The primary way is to raise challenges at the pre-election hearing. Now, some of these disputes such as challenging the eligibility of an individual voter can certainly wait until after the election to be decided. That's what we do in elections across the country. If a voter's eligibility cannot be confirmed, they vote a provisional ballot until their eligibility can be verified. We don't stop an election from happening until every voters' eligibility can be confirmed. If there is a challenge, they vote a provisional ballot. After the election, you see whether or not they were qualified to vote or not. Now, some of these challenges are just downright silly. But they have their intended effect, and that is to delay. In 2002, one employer raise add challenge arguing that the international association of machinists was not a "labor organization" within the meaning of the statute. The NLRB actually held a hearing on this and found that the machinists who had been representing machinists since 1888 are indeed a labor union. But the election was delayed by a month just to address that one issue. Some anti-union consultants brag openly about their ability to abuse the process and create delays. One union-busting law firm boasted on its web site how a 27-day hearing contributed to a five-month delay between filing of a petition and the election at a Massachusetts hospital organizing drive. Now, why is delay so important to management, who do not want to bargain in good faith with workers? Well, by delaying an NLRB election, they give themselves more time to conduct an anti-union campaign and make it more likely that they will win."

Senator Enzi: (11:01 AM)
  • Spoke on the NLRB Ambush Union Elections Rule Resolution of Disapproval.
    • SUMMARY "This is rule is the second formal rule making that the National Labor Relations Board has pushed through in the last year, the third in the past 75 years. There was only one before this board decided they they'd take unusual action. The first rule has been struck down already by federal courts because it went far beyond the agency's authority of. This ambush election rule is also being challenged in court but it is set to go in effect in less than a week, Monday, April 30. That's why the Senate must act today to stop the National Labor Relations Board from stacking the odds against America's employees and small businesses. During yesterdays debate both sides got to air their concerns. I want to respond to some of what I heard. There was much talk about the 90% of elections that go forward under mutual agreement. The agreement that was that because both sides were able to come to an agreement and because the wide majority of elections occur in a timely fashion, parties should not mind losing their rights to raise issues prior to the election. This argument is turning the concept of coming to agreement on its head. Yes, it is true that 90% of elections occur under mutual agreement and occur in 38 to 56 days. But that's precisely because both sides have the ability to raise issues of concern, such as which employees belong in the bargaining unit and have them resolved. In other words, both sides have incentive to make fair requests because the other side has the leverage of exercising the right to contest. When all of these rights are taken away and an election is scheduled in as few as ten days, the result will be that less mutual agreement occurs. The National Labor Relations Board has taken a process that's working well and becoming swifter year after year and turning it into a contentious process where the small business employers side feels entirely ambushed. If the National Labor Relations Board was truly intending to address the small minority of cases where long delays do occur, they should have drafted a rule that addressed only those cases For the employees to learn more about the union they may join. This is fairness to the employee. In many cases the election petition is the first some employees have ever heard about the union. They want to know what the union's reputation is for honesty, for keeping their promises, treating members well, and working well with the employer to make sure the business stays in business. Once a union is certified, it's very difficult for employees to vote it out if they decide to. Employees are barred from petitioning for decertification for a full year after the election and barred as well throughout the term of the collective bargaining agreement. Employees should have a chance to understand that once they unionize, they will no longer be able to negotiate or raise individually with their employer exceptional performance will not be rewarded and grievances cannot be brought straight to the employer but will have to go through the filter of union officials. Chairman Harkin quoted former President Dwight Eisenhower. I haven't had a chance to look up the quote's context, but the gist of it was only a fool would oppose the right of an employee to join a union. My comment on that is that a vote for this resolution does absolutely nothing to diminish the right of any employee to form a union. This resolution will not change the law one bit. If we're able to stop the ambush elections rule, union elections will still occur in a median of 38 days, with nearly 92% occurring in 56 days, just as it is now. And I would even venture to guess that the unions will continue to win the majority of elections. Last year they set a new record by winning 71% of elections. That's under the old rule."