On August 30, 2011, the National Labor Relations Board (the “Board”) issued a highly controversial and very pro-labor rule requiring employers to post notices informing employees of their right to join or form a union.  The rule was originally supposed to go into effect in November, but was subsequently pushed back to January 31, 2012 as a result of mounting criticism against the rule.  Indeed, several lawsuits have been filed by business groups alleging that the Board overstepped its discretion in imposing the rule on employers.  A federal judge in one of the cases recently asked the Board to further postpone the posting requirement so that the legal challenges could be heard, and the Board agreed, this time postponing the rule’s implementation to April 30, 2012.  

If the rule is implemented, employees will be required to post it in all locations at which the company traditionally posts notices, such as wage and hour and discrimination posters.  If greater than 20% of the workforce speaks a foreign language, the employer shall have to post the notice in that language too. 

Under the rule, employer notices would be required to contain a long list of employee rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.  Some of the more prominent examples include an employee’s right to:

  • Organize a union to negotiate with their employer concerning wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment;
  • Form, join or assist a union;
  • Bargain collectively through a union;
  • Strike an picket;
  • Discuss wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment;
  • Take action with one or more co-workers to improve working conditions by raising complaints with their employer, a government agency, or a union;
  • Choose not to do any of these activities, including not joining a union.

In addition to these rights, the notice also informs employees of actions that an employer may not take against employees, such as interrogating employees about their union support; firing or disciplining employees because of their support for the union; and prohibiting employees from wearing union paraphernalia except under special circumstances.  The notice also lists certain activities that are unlawful for unions, such as threatening or coercing employees, refusing to process a grievance, and discriminating against employees who do not support the union.

As a result of the notice, employees may ask their managers questions about the union, and the notice could even serve as a catalyst to a union orgainizing campaign or internal or external complaints of violations of employees’ labor law rights.  It is, therefore, crucial that  supervisors and managers are appropriately trained so that they know how to respond to employee questions or complaints without committing an unfair labor practice.