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Washington Labor & Employment Wire » National Labor Relations Modernization Act (H.R. 1355)

National Labor Relations Modernization Act (H.R. 1355)

Core Provisions: This legislation would require employers to provide labor organizations with equal access to employees prior to a representation election.  This bill also resembles the controversial Employee Free Choice Act of 2009 (EFCA), which was introduced by Congressional Democrats on March 10, 2009, in several respects. Like the EFCA, the bill contains provisions designed to increase employer penalties for unfair labor practices during organizing campaigns and to expedite the bargaining process surrounding a first collective bargaining agreement. Unlike the EFCA, however, the bill lacks the card check provision that allows a union to become the certified bargaining representative simply by obtaining signed authorization cards from a majority of employees in a proposed bargaining unit. 

Under the proposed legislation, within 30 days of the National Labor Relations Board directing an election, the employer must notify the designated union of “any activities the employer intends to engage in to campaign in opposition to recognition of the [union],” including any announcements, meetings, signs, or literature. The employer would be required to provide the union with equal access to the place of employment to campaign in favor of the union. This would mean providing the union with the opportunity to hold an equal number of meetings with individual employees or groups of employees, make announcements, display signs, and distribute literature, under the same terms and conditions that the employer engages in such activities.

The legislation includes provisions similar to those in the EFCA to facilitate an initial collective bargaining agreement, although this bill would apply only to employers with at least 20 employees and allow employers and unions additional time to reach an agreement before a party could initiate interest arbitration. Under this bill and the EFCA, the parties must begin bargaining within 10 days of a written request by a newly-certified union. But under the proposed legislation: (1) the parties would have 120 days to negotiate the terms of a collective bargaining agreement before either party can request mediation before the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS); (2) an additional 120 days to mediate before the parties were forced into mandatory interest arbitration before a panel appointed by the FMCS; and (3) the arbitration panel’s ruling would be effective for 18 months. In contrast, EFCA proposes a 90-day period to negotiate before a party can request mediation; an additional 30 days to mediate before going to mandatory interest arbitration; and an arbitration ruling that is effective for 2 years.

The legislation also includes an anti-retaliation provision and remedies identical to those included in EFCA. The remedies include liquidated damages in the amount of twice the awarded back pay and civil penalties of $20,000 for each time an employer willfully or repeatedly violates its employees’ right to organize.

Status: Rep. Sestak (D-PA) introduced this legislation on March 5, 2009, and it was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.