I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.

John D. Rockefeller

Adding to Mr. Rockefeller’s belief, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) wants employers to remind their employees that while making a living they also have rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  

Specifically, the NLRB recently announced a new rule that requires employers to post a workplace notice advising employees of their rights under the NLRA, which include rights to unionize, collectively bargain, and strike. The new rule applies to all private-sector employers (including labor unions) subject to the National Labor Relations Act and takes effect on November 14, 2011.Here is a link to the NLRB’s Q&A regarding the new posting rule.

Soapbox.jpgRhetoric & Reality – A Few Observations 

Not surprisingly, the NLRB’s posting rule has generated heated rhetoric from the business community (See National Labor Relations Board is out of Control and NLRB Rule Requiring Posters In Workplace Infuriates Business Groups. It also comes at a time when labor organizations are increasingly critical of President Obama (See Labor’s Criticism Of Obama Grows Louder).

Setting aside, however, the competing views on both sides of the union divide, there are two important facts to put this rule in perspective:

First, the rule is enacted at a time when the percentage of private-sector workers belonging to a union is down to 6.9% from the peak of 35% in May 1954. Without adapting to a workplace that has significantly changed since 1954 or otherwise offering employees a compelling reason to organize, it is nothing short of delusional to think that the NLRB’s posting requirement will reverse this trend.

Second, James Carville (he is credited with being a cornerstone of President Bill Clinton’s successful Presidential Campaign) famously noted that “If You Say Three Things, You Don’t Say Anything.”

With this in mind, the posting required by the NLRB – an 11 by 17 inch poster – advising employees of their rights under the NLRA will likely blend into the sea of verbiage of other posting requirements already found in most workplaces.

For example, the U.S. Department of Labor identifies 11 different employment related laws that must be posted in various workplaces. See U.S. Department of Labor Workplace Poster Requirements. Additionally, employers are required to post notices from the EEOC describing federal laws prohibiting job discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, equal pay, disability and genetic information. This is in addition to state required posters, such as MIOSHA. 

Conclusion

Employers shouldn’t like the NLRB’s new posting rule. But I would be much more concerned about the impact of the NLRB’s proposed revisions to the union election process than the posting requirement. This is because the revision to the election process essentially threatens to impair an employers’ ability to mount a successful campaign to educate workers about the realities of union representation or counter inaccurate or misleading union claims. But that is just me and I’m getting off my soapbox for a long Labor Day Weekend.