U.S. employers must post notices informing workers about their legal rights to form a union and bargain on contracts, the National Labor Relations Board said in a rule that may help efforts to organize employees.
Companies that use posters to tell employees about personnel rules or policies must add a notice about their collective bargaining rights, according to a statement today from the NLRB. The posting must be completed Nov. 14.
“The notice does make it easier for labor to make inroads,” Doreen Davis, a partner in the labor and employment practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in New York and Philadelphia, said in an interview. “It’s almost like an invitation to non-union employees to start thinking about joining unions.”
The board proposed the rule to spell out for employees their rights under federal laws that let workers choose to form and join a labor union. Business groups protested the proposal and said the rule shows the agency favors unions.
“It’s arbitrary, it’s capricious,” Peter Schaumber, a former NLRB chairman appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, said in an interview. “It shows just how activist they’re prepared to be.”
The labor board has been faulted by Republicans and business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for pushing a pro-union agenda. Board opponents cite the April complaint against Boeing Co. (BA) that said the world’s largest aerospace company retaliated for worker strikes in its Seattle-area hub by building a plant in South Carolina, a state where employees aren’t required to join a union.
“The NLRB rule simply brings the National Labor Relations Act in line with other workplace laws that require employers to post a notice in the workplace of their employees’ rights,” Peter Colavito, director of government relations at the 2.2 million-member Service Employees International Union, said in a statement.
The posting rule “imposes a minimal burden on employers, while giving employees the information they need to choose to exercise their rights,” Kimberly Freeman Brown, executive director of American Rights at Work, a union advocacy group based in Washington, said in a statement.
The agency said it received more than 6,500 public comments and in the review dropped a requirement to have employers send the notice by e-mail, voice mail or text messaging if they usually communicate with their employees in that manner, according to the statement.
“We are disappointed, as we opposed the rule,” Michael Eastman, executive director of labor-law policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest U.S. business lobbying group, said in an e-mail.
The final rule is better because it eliminates the delivery of the notices by voice mail or e-mail, he said.
Employers will find it difficult to accept that the board has accurately summarized all decisions involving the National Labor Relations Act on a poster, Ronald Meisburg, a lawyer at Proskauer Rose LLP in Washington and the board’s general counsel under Bush, said in an interview.
The rule won’t help unions because many employees consider labor groups, with declining membership, to be ineffective, J. Justin Wilson, managing director at the Washington-based Center for Union Facts, which opposes making it easier for workers to join a union, said in an e-mail.
“This is nothing more than a symbolic favor to big labor from their friends at the NLRB,” Wilson said.
The board has adopted a responsible and much-needed rule, Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor federation, said in a statement.
“Just as employers are required to notify their employees of their rights around health and safety, wages and discrimination on the job, 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,” Trumka said.
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