Woodworking businesses, large and small, are no longer bound by the controversial “ambush-election” union rules that went into effect April 30. On Monday, May 14, a U.S. federal court issued an order invalidating the rule on the grounds that the National Labor Relations Board did not have a quorum when it adopted the regulation last December.

Citing actor/director Woody Allen, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said in its decision: “[E]ighty percent of life is just showing up. When it comes to satisfying a quorum requirement, though, showing up is even more important than that. Indeed, it is the only thing that matters – even when the quorum is constituted electronically. In this case, because no quorum ever existed for the pivotal vote in question, the Court must hold that the challenged rule is invalid.”

The disputed rule changes affected pre- and post-election legal procedures and reduced “significantly” the required time to vote for unionization. Those against it said it denied employers sufficient time to negotiate with employees or seek counsel prior to the vote. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW) brought the case before the court. According to its website, members of the coalition include: American Home Furnishings Alliance, Mid-America Lumbermen’s Assn., Association of Millwork Distributors, Associated Builders & Contractors, Associated General Contractors, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Manufacturers, National Small Business Assn. and National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Assn.

In a statement from the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Assn. applauding the court’s decision, NLBMDA President Michael O'Brien, said, "The NLRB has consistently overreached on this issue, and NLBMDA maintains its strong opposition to the unfair mandates in the 'Ambush-Election' Rule. We will continue to support the rights of lumber dealers as a member of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace."

CDW Chairman Geoffrey Burr said in a statement, “Employers are greatly gratified that the Court has overturned a rule that would have been bad for employees and employers and especially hard on small business owners who would have been left with mere days to navigate an often-arcane NLRB process.

"While we hope this will be the final word on this particular attack on workplace democracy, we know that hope is not a strategy and are keeping our eyes out and litigation ready on a number of fronts.”

The court’s ruling does not prevent the NLRB from re-issuing the rule, a move which looks to be forthcoming. In a statement, NLRB Board Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce said, “We continue to believe that the amendments represent a significant improvement in our process and serve the public interest by eliminating unnecessary litigation. We are determined to move forward.”

I have been to the shops of a number of furniture manufacturers, cabinet manufacturers, architectural woodworkers, etc. – both union and non-union. Each form can be successful, but only when employees and management are allowed sufficient time to study all the facts before voting.

Pushing through a rule that shortens the allotment of days prior to the voting process does not give either side sufficient time for what could be a life-changing decision. What do you think?

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