Manufacturers Move to Block Union Rule

The National Association of Manufacturers has sued the National Labor Relations Board, seeking to block a rule requiring employers to post notices informing workers of their right to join a union and act together to improve wages and working conditions.
The trade group said the board lacks the authority from Congress to enact the requirement, which will affect most private-sector companies in the U.S. Its lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, is a sign of the growing backlash against an agency that business groups and Republicans say is overreaching to promote unionization.
"We oppose many of the board's other decisions, but this is the case and the fact pattern that was ripe for legal challenge at this time," said Joe Trauger, vice president of human resources policy for NAM. "What this shows is that we're serious about keeping a check on this agency." He said more than 90% of NAM's 11,000 members will be affected by the rule, which is scheduled to become effective Nov. 14.
NLRB spokeswoman Nancy Cleeland said the board hasn't seen the suit but believes it is authorized to make the rule under the National Labor Relations Act. The notice's purpose is to inform employees of their rights under the act, "just as other workplace posters inform employees of their rights under other laws," she said.
The NLRB has said the notice, which it hasn't yet made available to view, will explain not only the right to form or join a union but also the right to refrain from doing so. The notice will also provide examples of unlawful employer and union conduct and instruct employees how to contact the NLRB with questions or complaints. The board has said the notice is similar to one required by the Labor Department for federal contractors.
The NLRB's board and acting general counsel—all appointed by President Barack Obama—have enacted or begun to enact a set of union-backed decisions that are making employers nervous. They cite several recent precedent-setting rulings in cases that involve individual companies and unions, and rules that the board has undertaken on its own, including one that would speed union-organizing elections.
Business groups also oppose the acting general counsel's complaint against Boeing Co., which alleges the aircraft maker illegally transferred a production line to a nonunion plant in South Carolina from unionized operations in Washington state. Boeing is fighting the complaint, and business groups say it could have a chilling effect on hiring.
The notice-posting rule will apply to employers bound by the National Labor Relations Act. Employers of airline, railroad and agricultural workers aren't bound by the act. The board said it is exempting "very small employers" from the rule but Mr. Trauger said employers would be better off complying than trying to fit into the board's "narrowly crafted" exemption.
In its lawsuit, the manufacturers' association asserts that the NLRB is acting "in excess" of its authority. Peter Kirsanow, a lawyer for the group, said that in other cases where a federal agency required a workplace notice, Congress had expressly authorized the agency to issue the requirement. But he said the National Labor Relations Act doesn't expressly grant authority to the NLRB in this case.

Write to Melanie Trottman at


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