WASHINGTON -- The federal labor board announced Thursday that it has finalized a rule requiring employers to post notices in the workplace informing workers of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The poster will be a modest 11 by 17 inches, similar to the Department of Labor notices already posted in workplaces across the country, and it will be provided free by the federal government.
Business groups and their allies are furious. They say that the rule is too onerous, and that it benefits labor unions.
The National Federation of Independent Business, a powerful small-business trade group known to support Republicans, quickly pounced on the "punitive new rule" as another assault by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on independent employers.
"Just when we thought we had seen it all from the NLRB, it has reached a new low in its zeal to punish small-business owners," Karen Harned, executive director of NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center, said in a statement.
The National Labor Relations Act is a 76-year-old law that outlines workers' rights to unionize and bargain collectively in most private-sector workplaces. The fact that the board would want Americans aware of these rights is apparently seen by some as catering to labor unions.
Randel K. Johnson, senior vice president for labor policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told The New York Times that he questioned whether the NLRB even had the authority to mandate the postings.
"This is one more initiative among those we expect to be coming out over the next month that are essentially gifts to organized labor," he said.
The conservative-leaning Boston Herald penned an editorial Friday decrying the labor board as "out of control."
"House Republicans seem intent on trying to rein in the NLRB. This just gives them more ammunition," the editorial board wrote.
Peter Schaumber, a former NLRB chairman appointed by George W. Bush, told Bloomberg that the new rule is "arbitrary" and "capricious."
"It shows just how activist they’re prepared to be," he said.
The poster hubbub may be just another sign that the NLRB can't do much of anything these days without infuriating the business community. A high-profile complaint filed by its general counsel against the Boeing Company earlier this year has rallied Republicans and business trade groups against the NLRB as well as the White House. New rules proposed by the board that would streamline the union election process have also angered the right. Some Republican leaders have gone so far as to threaten defunding the labor board.
As for the new posters, NLRB officials don't see the requirement as all that burdensome -- and in fact, they believe the posters are long overdue.
"We've been one of the few agencies that enforce workplace laws that haven’t had some kind of posting up," agency spokeswoman Nancy Cleeland notes.
The new poster requirements will go into effect Nov. 14.
Companies will be able to download the poster off the web or stop into any NLRB regional office to pick up free copies. Cleeland said the board tried to be as accommodating as possible, tweaking the rules after a public-comment period so that employers could use black-and-white posters if they don't have color printers. And if the companies don't carry 11 by 17 inch paper, the board carved out a solution.
"They can take two different 8-by-11 pieces of paper and tape them together," Cleeland said.