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Litany of NLRB Decisions Strip Workers of Protection in Union Organizing
Federal agency charged with protecting workers is leaving workers more vulnerable, says American Rights at Work

December 6, 2004

Kimberly Freeman
202-822-2127, ext. 111
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WASHINGTON, DC—A recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), announced last Friday, makes it more difficult for workers to receive legal protection from employer threats.  Reversing a 2000 decision, the Bush-appointed NLRB members ruled that employees must provide evidence that an employer spread a threat of plant closing among its employees for the purpose of overturning union election results. 

According to the dissenting NLRB members, “Since the 1950s, at least, the Board rightly has recognized that when an employer threatens to close a plant if the union wins a representation election, the threat very likely will make the rounds of the workplace.  It is, after all, an extraordinarily powerful message, for it implies the end of every employee’s job.”

"This rapid erosion of labor law is leaving workers in America more vulnerable than ever," says David Bonior, Chair of American Rights at Work, a new workers' rights advocacy organization.  “Workers who stand up for themselves are now in double jeopardy—attacked by their employer and abandoned by the very agency created to protect them.”

Over the past several months, a divided NLRB has issued decisions that strip workers of legal protections.  In November, employees of temp agencies were barred from organizing with regular employees without both employer and agency permission.  Prohibitions on communications between workers expressing displeasure or anger over working conditions were ruled lawful last month, and are no longer assumed to interfere with employee free speech around union activity.  In September, the NLRB determined that disabled workers who receive rehabilitative services from employers should not be classified as workers and are therefore ineligible to form unions under the protections of federal law.   The agency released a similar decision in July for graduate teaching and research assistants, ruling that they are students and not employees. 

“We know that workers are under attack when they organize, and the government should be offering them more protection, not less,” says Bonior.

American Rights at Work strives to inform the public about the NLRB, the federal agency that makes critical decisions affecting workers' lives and freedoms. Through its monthly website feature, "Workers' Rights Watch: Eye on the NLRB," American Rights at Work monitors and publicizes the insufficiency of U.S. labor law to ensure employees the freedom to exercise their legal rights to organize.