Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Representative Christopher Shays Introduces a Bill to Amend the NLRA

On May 4, 2006, Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT) introduced a bill that would set statutory deadlines for the NLRB. The National Labor Relations Board Reform Act, H.R. 5310 IH, would require the Board to: (1) certify an election result not later than 12 months after the representation petition was filed; and (2) issue its order in a ULP case not later than 6 months after the General Counsel issued his complaint (not later than 12 months for “novel” issues). These statutory deadlines may be extended only with the agreement of the parties.

By providing that the Board shall act “not later” than these deadlines, the bill would seem to remove the Board’s statutory authority to act beyond the deadlines.

The bill would require the Board to act several times faster than it acts now. In FY 2005, the median for processing a ULP case from complaint to order was approximately 19 months. See Seventieth Annual Report of the NLRB at 171 (Table 23). In FY 2005, the median for processing a representation case from petition to Board decision was 9.5 months. Though this median is within the bill’s 12-month deadline, half of the cases took longer than the median, and many likely took far longer than 12 months. The median for representation cases awaiting Board decision as of September 30, 2005, was approximately 27 months from the date the petition was filed.

The Board would have great difficulty meeting the bill’s deadlines unless Congress significantly increases the Board’s resources. Absent improved funding, the bill likely would require the Board to give short shrift to many cases in order to avoid losing the power to act. Rushed decisions will likely be poorer decisions, and the Board may find it more difficult to obtain court enforcement.

Justice delayed is justice denied. Spurring the Board to enforce the Act faster is a laudable goal. However, setting short deadlines and removing the Board’s power to act beyond those deadlines may end up harming the Act’s intended beneficiaries.