New union election rules set amid court challenges

New rules that speed up how quickly a union election can occur take effect next week, even as business groups wage court battles to halt them after a Republican congressional effort derailed at the White House.

The National Labor Relations Board on Monday issued guidance from its general counsel on implementing the rules, adopted by the agency last year and set to take effect April 14, which shorten the time between a union filing a petition to represent workers and an election.

The government labor agency, unions and Democrats who back the revisions say the new rules are meant to curb misconduct by some companies, which look to lengthen the process as a means of threatening and intimidating employees.

Business groups, however, argue the new rules would interfere with the privacy rights of workers and employers, along with companies' due process and protect speech rights, with two court cases launched in January.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is leading a legal challenge in federal court in the District of Columbia, while the Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas and other plaintiffs are fighting the NLRB's new rule in federal court in Texas, with both cases pending.

Congress last month voted along party lines in approving the measure to stop what Republicans have dubbed "ambush elections." And as promised, President Barack Obama last week vetoed the legislation, saying it sought to "block modest but overdue reforms to simplify and streamline private sector union elections."

Denouncing the White House action in a statement, Ohio Republican and Speaker of the House John Boehner called the new rules "an assault on the rights and privacy protections of American workers."

The new rules allow for a representation election in less than 14 days after an official petition is filed, as opposed to current rules that state elections can't take place for at least 25 days.

They also provide for electronic filing and transmission of election petitions and other documents, and requires employers to include available contact information for workers, such as phone numbers and email addresses.