Senators Alexander And McConnell Introduce Bill To Alter NLRB

On January 28, 2015, Senators Lamar Alexander and Mitch McConnell introduced a bill that would reform the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) in significant ways. They introduced a similar bill in September of 2014, but it did not come to a vote.

This bill proposes several significant changes. They include:

1. Moving from five members to six, with three from each party. The intent of this change is to create less partisan advocacy and presumably more stability in decisions of the Board. The members’ terms would stagger such that the process of replacing members would not upset the party balance.

2. Parties sued by the NLRB’s General Counsel, which is the enforcement arm of the agency, would be able to seek U.S. District Court review of the Complaint filed against them within thirty days. This would permit parties to obtain court review of NLRB actions at a much earlier stage, and would give the courts the ability to halt actions much more quickly. (One suspects that the NLRB’s multiple complaints against McDonald’s on the joint employer issue played a role in spurring on this particular provision of the legislation. If this rule were in place now, McDonald’s could obtain federal court review of the Complaints quickly.)

3. If a case reaches the five member NLRB in Washington and the Board fails to act within a year, either party can appeal to the Court of Appeals. This is intended to encourage quicker action by the NLRB, and to give parties an avenue for obtaining a decision if the Board unduly delays.

This is only a proposed bill. But given the NLRB’s tendency to extend its reach and revise its rules in recent years, it will not be surprising if this bill, or one similar to it, receives more attention and is ultimately enacted at some time this year.