Washington to push unions on private employers

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In what appears to the latest attack on private businesses from the Obama administration, a new rule announced Tuesday by the National Labor Relations Board, will force private employers to prominently place throughout the workplace, posters explaining workers’ rights to form or join a union.

The move signals a change in the direction of the function of the NLRB, which generally makes policy decisions on a case-by-case basis regarding individual labor-management disputes.

The controversial rule comes less than a year after President Barack Obama made several new appointments to the board, giving it its first Democratic majority in more than a decade. One of the more contentious moves was the appointment of former AFL-CIO lawyer Craig Becker, that critics said would promote sweeping pro-union changes. GOP concerns over Becker’s appointment held up the nomination process for months.

Now that unions are finding a labor board that’s more aligned with their own interests, leaders are scrambling to lobby for changes after years of decline in membership at private companies. Today, in the private sector, only 7.2 percent of workers are part of a union. In contrast, union membership in government is far more commonplace. In 2009, local government had the highest membership rate of union membership at 43.3 percent.

Adding to concerns of employers about potential union presence, the labor board has expressed interest in recent months about the use of electronic voting for union elections. Critics feel that the move would compromise the anonymity of secret ballots.

The new rule could take place in little as 60 days. A statement from the board said that many workers today are unaware that their right to organize, is a protected activity under the Nation Labor Relations Act.

The NLRB said that posters would also advise workers that they don’t have to join a union and outline rules regarding potential union intimidation or misconduct.

The posters are already required to be displayed in offices of government contractors and subcontractors following an executive order that Obama signed shortly after taking office.

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