The House approved a compromise set of deadlines to speed up union certification elections yesterday as organized labor's allies continued to fend off crippling amendments to the administration's labor law revision package.
This action - coupled with a vote to let unions enter plants to rebut management arguments against them - were seen as good omens for labor as the House faces final action on the bill later this week.
Pro-labor forces also had to compromise to win approval for the Secretary of Labor to deny federal contracts for up to three years to wilful violators of labor laws, a provision aimed in part at the big J.P. Stevens textile firm.After handily defeating a move to kill the proposal, the House agreed to make the contract debarment permissive rather than mandatory and limited only to individual plants where offenses are committed unless corporate officials are involved.
The bill, drafted by the White House with the blessing of the AFL-CIO and other unions, would generally make it easier for unions to organize and win contracts by speeding up certification procedures and penalizing employers for delaying tactics.
With yesterday's votes, labor lobbyists were cautiously predicting their first real victory in Congress this year after suffering setbacks earlier on a construction site picketing bill and minimum wage legislation.
In the major vote yesterday, the House agreed to require that elections authorizing a union to serve as a bargaining agent for workers be held within 25 to 75 days of filing for the vote depending on the complexity of the issues at stake.
The administration bill originally called for a timetable of 15 to 75 days, but it was modified on the House floor by labor supporters in order to pick up votes to defeat a Republican alternative that would have provided 23 to 90 days for an election and possibly more in some cases.
The compromise - labelled "acceptable" by labor lobbyists who hovered outside the House chamber during the vote - was approved overwhelmingly after the Republican proposal was defeated 229 to 185.
There are currently no deadlines for holding certification elections Although most are held within about 45 days, some drag on for months - a delay that unions cite as the reason for many lost recognition battles, especially in the South.
In the other major dispute yesterday, the House voted 247 to 168 in favor of a proposal to let unions hold meetings on company property if management officials have held "captive audience" meetings in order to dissuade workers from joining a union.Industry lobbyists strongly opposed the proposal.
The House also rejected a Republican proposal to let management officials go to a worker's home to present their case in a certification campaign, a priviledge now given unions but not employers. But, in a compromise acceptable to the unions, it agreed to give employers the right to present their case at union rallies or in union halls.
The House also approved a provision of the bill to increase the National Labor Relations Board from five to seven members, a more aimed at increasing the board's capacity to process cases.
It agreed to a requirement that the NLRB establish general rules governing what constitutes a bargaining unit. With the agreement of both opponents and proponents of the legislation, the House also gave the Congress veto power over any of the rules.