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. 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.”
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.” 08-26-2011. The Los Angeles Times.
The new NLRB rule will apply to any employer covered by the NLRA, excluding states or political subdivisions not subject to board jurisdiction. The NLRB estimated in its notice of proposed rulemaking that the “great majority” of 6 million small businesses in the United States will be required to comply with the notice posting requirement. The final rule included a summary of current board standards for more than two dozen types of businesses, along with the board’s general retail standard providing coverage of an employer with an annual gross volume of business of $500,000 or more, and the nonretail standard giving the board jurisdiction over employers with annual inflows or outflows across state lines that meet or exceed $50,000.
In the final rule, which becomes effective on November 14, 2011, the NLRB provided that employers must post the mandatory notice in all areas where they customarily place notices to employees concerning personnel rules or policies. In workplaces where 20 percent of workers are not proficient in English and speak another language, the employer must provide the notice in the language the employees speak. But if an employer’s workforce includes two or more groups totaling at least 20 percent of employees who are not proficient in English, the employer must either post the NLRA notice in both languages or post the notice in the language spoken by the greater number of employees, while providing copies in the second language to employees who are not proficient in English.
Notices will be available in printed form from NLRB, or may be downloaded from the NLRB website. Notices will be available in languages other than English, and the rule provides that an employer will not be liable for failing to post a notice in a language other than English if it is not yet available from NLRB.
Employers that post notices to employees on internet or intranet pages or bulletin boards must also post the NLRA notice “no less prominently than other notices to employees.” The board dropped its proposal that notices be printed in color and that they be distributed by e-mail. 08-25-2011. The Los Angeles Times; Bureau of National Affairs.