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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA): Union Representation Procedures and Dispute Resolution - RL32930


Gerald Mayer
Analyst in Labor Policy

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA) gives private sector workers the right to join or form a labor union and to bargain collectively over wages, hours, and other working conditions. An issue before Congress is whether to change the procedures under which a union is certified as the bargaining representative of a union chosen by a majority of workers.

Under current law, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) conducts a secret ballot election when a petition is filed requesting one. A petition can be filed by a union, worker, or employer. Workers or a union may request an election if at least 30% of workers have signed authorization cards (i.e., cards authorizing a union to represent them). The NLRA does not require secret ballot elections. An employer may voluntarily recognize a union if a majority of workers have signed authorization cards.

Once a union is certified or recognized, the NLRA does not require the union and employer to reach an initial contract agreement. When a union and employer cannot reach an agreement on a contract, instead of a strike or lockout the parties may use mediation and arbitration to resolve the dispute.

In recent Congresses, legislation has been introduced that, if enacted, would change current union certification procedures. For example, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which was introduced in the 111
th Congress, would have required the NLRB to certify a union if a majority of employees signed authorization cards (i.e., “card check”). The Secret Ballot Protection Act, which was introduced in the 113th Congress, would have made it an unfair labor practice for an employer to recognize or bargain with a union without a secret ballot election.

Supporters and opponents of card check sometimes use similar language to support their positions. Employers argue that, under card check certification, workers may be pressured or coerced into signing authorization cards and may only hear the union’s point of view. Unions argue that, during an election campaign, employers may pressure or coerce workers into voting against a union. Supporters of secret ballot elections argue that casting a secret ballot is private and confidential. Unions argue that, during an election campaign, employers have greater access to workers. Unions argue that card check certification is less costly than a secret ballot election. Employers maintain that unionization may be more costly to workers, because union members must pay dues and higher union wages may result in fewer union jobs.

Requiring card check certification may increase the level of unionization, while requiring secret ballot elections may decrease it. Research suggests that, where card check recognition is required, unions undertake more union drives and the union success rate is higher. The union success rate is also greater where recognition is combined with a neutrality agreement (i.e., an agreement where the employer agrees to remain neutral during a union organizing campaign).

To the extent that requiring secret ballot elections or requiring certification when a majority of employees sign authorization cards would affect the level of unionization, the economic effects may depend on how well labor markets fit the model of perfect competition. Requiring card check certification may improve worker benefits and reduce earnings inequality—if more workers are unionized. Requiring secret ballot elections may increase inequality in compensation—if fewer workers are unionized.

Date of Report: December 11, 2013
Number of Pages: 36
Order Number: RL32930
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Small Business Administration HUBZone Program - R41268


Robert Jay Dilger
Senior Specialist in American National Government

The Small Business Administration (SBA) administers several programs to support small businesses, including the Historically Underutilized Business Zone Empowerment Contracting (HUBZone) program. The HUBZone program is a small business federal contracting assistance program “whose primary objective is job creation and increasing capital investment in distressed communities.” It provides participating small businesses located in areas with low income, high poverty rates, or high unemployment rates with contracting opportunities in the form of “setasides,” sole-source awards, and price-evaluation preferences. Firms must be certified by the SBA to participate in the HUBZone program. On December 17, 2013, there were 5,799 certified HUBZone small businesses.

In FY2012, the federal government awarded 76,748 contracts valued at $8.1 billion to HUBZone certified businesses, with about $1.88 billion of that amount awarded through a HUBZone setaside, sole source, or price-evaluation preference award. The program’s FY2013 administrative cost was about $10.0 million. Its FY2013 appropriation was $2.5 million ($1.976 million following sequestration), with the additional cost of administering the program provided by the SBA’s appropriation for general administrative expenses.

Congressional interest in the HUBZone program has increased in recent years, primarily due to U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports of fraud in the program. Some Members have called for the program’s termination. Others have recommended that the SBA continue its efforts to improve its administration of the program, especially its efforts to prevent fraud.

This report examines arguments both for and against targeting assistance to geographic areas with specified characteristics, such as low income, high poverty, or high unemployment, as opposed to providing assistance to people or businesses with specified characteristics. It then assesses the arguments both for and against the continuation of the HUBZone program.

The report also discusses the HUBZone program’s structure and operation, focusing on the definitions of HUBZone areas and HUBZone small businesses and the program’s performance relative to federal contracting goals. The report includes an analysis of the SBA’s administration of the program and the SBA’s performance measures.

This report also examines P.L. 111-240, the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, which removed certain language from the Small Business Act that had prompted federal courts and GAO to find that HUBZone set-asides have “precedence” over other small business set-asides. It also briefly discusses H.R. 489, the HUBZone Expansion Act of 2013, and its companion bill in the Senate (S. 206), which would expand the area eligible for HUBZone status as a result of a BRAC military base closure, and S. 259, the Assuring Contracting Equity Act of 2013, which would increase the federal government’s small business contracting goals, including the goal to award not less than 3% of the total value of all small business eligible prime contract awards and subcontract awards to HUBZone small businesses to not less than 6%.

Date of Report: December 17, 2013
Number of Pages: 33
Order Number: R41268
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Monday, December 30, 2013

Unemployment Insurance: Legislative Issues in the 113th Congress - R42936


Julie M. Whittaker
Specialist in Income Security

Katelin P. Isaacs
Analyst in Income Security

The 113
th Congress may face a number of issues related to currently available unemployment insurance programs: Unemployment Compensation (UC), temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08), and Extended Benefits (EB). With the national unemployment rate decreasing but still high, the weekly demand for extended unemployment benefits continues at elevated levels. Congress is considering whether to extend the authorization for several key temporary unemployment insurance provisions in the 113th Congress. P.L. 112-240 extended the authorization for the EUC08 program until the week ending on or before January 1, 2014 (December 28, 2013 for most states). In addition, it extended the 100% federal financing of the EB program until on December 31, 2013.

The 113
th Congress faces these expiring provisions as well as other unemployment insurance policy issues, including unemployment insurance financing, integrity measures, and the appropriate length and availability of unemployment benefits.

This report provides a brief overview of the three unemployment insurance programs—UC, EUC08, and EB—that may currently pay benefits to eligible unemployed workers. This report contains a brief explanation of how the EUC08 program, as well as some other UC-related payments, began to experience reductions in benefits as a result of the sequester order contained within the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25).

This report also includes descriptions of the unemployment insurance provisions within H.R. 51, H.R. 188, H.R. 1172, H.R. 1229, H.R. 1277, H.R. 1502, H.R. 1530, H.R. 1617, H.R. 2177, H.R. 2448, H.R. 2821, H.R. 2826, H.R. 2889, H.R. 3205, H.R. 3447, H.R. 3453, H.R. 3454, H.R. 3546, S. 18, S. 803, S. 1099, S. 1747, as well as the President’s Budget Proposal for FY2014.

Date of Report: December 11, 2013
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R42936
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