NLRB requires posting of workers' rights to unionize
The National Labor Relations Board has issued new regulations requiring companies to post notices informing employees of their rights to unionize, a vote of confidence in unions in a year that has seen organized labor come under attack as governments try to cut costs in a stumbling economy.
The ruling came after the board received 7,034 comments about the proposed rule from workers, employees and members of Congress.
The final rule, issued Thursday, was decided because employees might not know about their rights to unionize because of declining union membership. Unions have become less common in the workplace: 11.9% of employed wage and salary workers belonged to a union last year, down from 20% in 1983.
The board is also concerned that no one is required to inform workers of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act, passed in 1935.
"The Board was established to ensure that employers and, later, unions respect the exercise of employees' rights under the NLRA," the ruling reads. "For employees to fully exercise their NLRA rights, however, they must know that those rights exist."
President Obama issued an executive order in 2009 saying that employees needed to be informed of their NLRA rights.
The NLRB has come under fire this year for what businesses and some Republicans are calling an attack on business. It is investigating whether Boeing has engaged in unfair labor practices by transferring some employees to North Carolina from Washington to avoid unionization. The NLRB is also looking into speeding up union elections, which business groups oppose.
In a statement after the ruling, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation said the rule was "designed to push workers into compulsory unionism." A statement by the foundation's president, Mark Mix, reads:
The NLRB's new rules are just the latest example of the Obama Labor Board’s biased approach to administering labor law. Just as the Obama administration promises to lessen the job-destroying weight of federal regulations, Obama's NLRB comes out with a new 'posting rule' to saddle every business –- from ‘mom and pop' stores to IBM –- with new mandatory posting requirements designed solely to grease the skids for more forced unionism.
Organized labor applauded the ruling. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that "this rule gives clear information to employees about their rights under this fundamental labor law so that workers are better equipped to exercise and enforce them." A blog post on the AFL-CIO website mocked the response by business, saying "NLRB says Workers Need to Know Their Rights, Biz World Flips Out."
-- Alana Semuels
Photo: Labor activists protest in Washington. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images