NAICU Washington Update

Congress Signals a New Focus on NLRB

February 23, 2017

The House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions signaled a new interest in the future of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by holding a hearing on “Restoring Balance and Fairness” to the board. 

The NLRB has been of particular interest to private, nonprofit colleges and universities after a series of recent rulings attempted to grant new unionizing rights to certain faculty and students at private colleges. 

Most of the discussion focused on three recent NLRB rulings:  the “ambush” election rule, the joint employer standard (relating to franchise businesses), and approval of micro-bargaining units.  However, in his opening statement, Subcommittee Chair Tim Walberg (R-MI) mentioned his concerns with “organizing on college campuses—graduate students, undergraduate athletes, and others.”  The only other mention of higher education during the hearing was a reference to the recently approved nine department-based graduate unions at Yale, cited as an example of micro bargaining units.

Democratic members of the subcommittee mentioned several times that this was the 25th subcommittee hearing on the NLRB since 2011, with no action on legislation to make any changes.  Other members mentioned that the president’s opportunity to fill two vacant seats on the board, giving it a Republican majority, would change labor policy more quickly than any new legislation. 

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