American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations v. NLRB, No. 20-5223 (D.C. Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) challenges a rule governing the elections in which employees vote on whether to be represented by a union. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) promulgated the 2019 Rule without notice and comment, asserting that it falls within the Administrative Procedure Act’s (APA) exception. The NLRB argues that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or Act), mandates direct review from the Board to the circuit court. The Board also asserts that, even if the district court had jurisdiction, it erred in holding that five challenged provisions of the Rule fall outside the APA’s procedural exception. The AFL-CIO cross-appeals, arguing that the 2019 Rule as a whole is arbitrary and capricious and that the provision concerning ballot impoundment specifically is arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law.
The DC Circuit held that the statutory provision for direct review in federal appellate courts of NLRB orders regarding unfair labor practices did not divest the district court of jurisdiction over rules that are exclusively concerned with representation elections, as is the 2019 Rule. The court held that the district court erred in concluding that none of the five challenged provisions comes within the procedural exception; the court held that two of them do. Those two are rules of agency procedure, so were validly promulgated without notice and comment. The court affirmed the district court’s invalidation of the rules regarding the eligible employee-voters list, the timeline for certification of election results, and election-observer eligibility. The AFL-CIO’s challenge to the 2019 Rule as arbitrary and capricious fails.