WASHINGTON (AP) -- The National Labor Relations Board issued a final rule on Friday aimed at modernizing and streamlining the union election process.

The new rule will shorten the time between when an election is ordered and the election is held, eliminating a previous 25-day waiting period. And it seeks to reduce litigation that can be used to stall elections. It will also require employers to furnish union organizers with email addresses and phone numbers of workers.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka speaks in Los Angeles Sept. 9. (AP photo)

The changes are a win for unions, which have long complained the process is too long. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the NLRB's "modest but important reforms" will help reduce delays and make it easier for workers to vote on forming a union. "Strengthening protections for workers seeking to come together and bargain collectively is critical to workers winning much-deserved wage gains and improving their lives," he said.

But the rule, many months in the making, has generated criticism from the business community and from many Republicans.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the new rule will "hamstring employers facing organizing drives and give unions the upper hand."

And The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) called it flawed and harmful. "By dramatically changing the procedures that govern union elections, the rule limits the information available to employees prior to entering the voting booth, potentially subjects employees to harassment at home and undermines the due process rights of employers," said Kelly Kolb, the organization's vice president for government affairs.

The rule is also intended to reduce litigation, including a provision that would require businesses to hold off on filing labor-related lawsuits until after the union election itself takes place.

The five-member board approved the rule on a 3-2 vote, with all three Democrats voting yes and two Republicans voting no.

On Thursday, the board ruled by the same 3-2 party breakdown that employees with access to their employer's email system have the right to use company email for union organizing and other workplace-related activities - but only on their own time.


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