What They Don’t Want You to Know …
A melodrama is being played out in federal court about whether American workers should be informed of rights that they have possessed for 70 years under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Most workers think the NLRA pertains only to union organizing but it provides most workers the right to join together to improve their wages and working conditions with or without a union. The NLRA can come into play, for example, when an employer fires a non-union employee(s) for discussing a safety concern or other concerns about working conditions.
Employers are spending millions to prevent workers from knowing their rights!
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a rule last summer that would have required most private sector employers to post a notice on Nov. 14, 2011 informing all workers of their rights under the NLRA. This is called the NLRB “Poster Rule.” There was an immediate outcry from business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and Associated Builders and Contractors (all of which filed lawsuits to block the rule).
Twice delayed, the rule was scheduled to go into effect on April 30, 2012. That’s not going to happen now because of recent federal court rulings in multiple lawsuits. Here are the legal developments:
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Washington, D.C., on April 17, 2012 issued a temporary injunction prohibiting implementation of the rule, pending appeal.
- U.S. District Judge David Norton of South Carolina ruled on April 13, 2012 that the labor board went beyond its legal authority when issuing the rule.
- U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Washington, D.C., on March 2, 2012 ruled that the NLRB had the authority to adopt the poster rule, though she said the NLRB exceeded its authority with respect to certain penalty penalties for failing to comply with the rule.
The NLRB says the notice is needed because “many employees protected by the NLRA are unaware of their rights under the statute.” Requiring employers to post the notice would, according to the NLRB, “increase knowledge of the NLRA among employees, in order to better enable the exercise of rights under the statute.”
Most union workers are aware that the NLRA protects their right to organize but non-union workers may have no idea that the NLRA also protects them, whether they want to join a union or not. Section 7 of the NLRA guarantees employees the right to engage in “concerted activities” not only for self-organization but also “for the purpose of . . . mutual aid or protection. . . .”
The broad protection of Section 7 applies with particular force to unorganized employees who, because they have no designated bargaining representative, must “speak for themselves as best they [can].” NLRB v. Washington Aluminum Co., 370 U.S. 9, 14, 82 S.Ct. 1099, 8 L.Ed.2d 298 (1962).
At this point, it is anyone’s guess whether the NLRA posters will ever see the fluorescent light of break rooms in businesses and factories around the country. I suggest workers print out this article or an equivalent and (anonymously) post it on their employee bulletin board.