Do You Know Your Rights?
New York Times
April 22, 2012
Under federal labor law, employees have the right to
join together to seek better pay and working
conditions, with or without a union. If an employer
tries to punish organizers, employees have the right to
seek protection from the National Labor Relations
Board. But employees still don’t have the right to be
informed of their rights.
Last August, the N.L.R.B. issued a rule requiring
employers to post a notice in the workplace telling
employees of their rights. The rule was prompted by the
board’s finding that young employees, recent immigrants
and workers in nonunion workplaces were generally
unaware of the law’s guarantees and protections.
The backlash was furious. The National Association of
Manufacturers sued to block the rule in federal court
in Washington, D.C. The United States Chamber of
Commerce sued in federal court in South Carolina. In
both cases, industry claimed that the law did not
expressly permit the board to require employers to post
The judge in Washington recently ruled in favor of the
board, based on the sound premise that the N.L.R.B.’s
broad rule-making authority permits it to impose
requirements that are reasonably related to the law.
The judge in South Carolina ruled against the board. He
did not dispute that the law allows the board to issue
rules that are needed to carry out the law, but he said
the board had confused a necessary rule with one that
is simply “useful.” Last Tuesday, a federal appeals
court postponed the April 30 effective date of the rule
pending appeals to clarify the issue.
At its core this isn’t just about the legality of
having to hang a poster in the coffee room. It’s about
industry’s attempt to delay rules whenever it cannot
derail them outright. It is about preventing workers
from gaining knowledge and support to help them press
The courts will now have their say. The White House and
Democratic lawmakers should weigh in with friend-of-
the-court briefs supporting the N.L.R.B. — and
employees’ right to know their rights.
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