Labor Day for me has always been a time of celebration and reflection. Like most union members, I celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of the labor movement. A short list includes the restrictions on child labor and homework, minimum wages, the eight-hour day, health and safety legislation and contract language, fringe benefit programs and wages that have brought millions of Americans and their families into the middle class; unions continue to provide a pathway to economic security.
But I also reflect on the many sacrifices that mark this journey like way-stations on a map: in California, Delano and the Embarcadero in San Francisco; in the Midwest the Republic Steel Works of South Chicago, Flint and Dearborn, Michigan and Bay View in Milwaukee where in October 1886, workers struck for the eight-hour day; in the Northeast, Lawrence, Massachusetts and the Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy, whose 100th anniversary we will mark in March 2011.
At the Office of Labor-Management Standards, we enforce most provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. This law seeks to establish the highest standard of ethics and responsibility in labor-management relations. We investigate complaints in union officer elections to ensure free and fair democratic elections. The annual financial reports we require and publish on our website along with audits and investigations we conduct help ensure that unions are transparent and accountable to their members. Democratic, transparent and accountable unions have a much more effective voice, both in the workplace and society at large.
Secretary Solis’ vision, “Good Jobs for Everyone”, embraces many of the same historic values of the labor movement, including growing family-supporting jobs; jobs that are safe and secure; jobs that are sustainable – like green jobs – that export products, not paychecks; jobs that rebuild a strong middle class and finally jobs that provide workers a meaningful voice in their workplace.
Not all workers belong to unions. Many would join the union but don’t for any number of reasons, one of which is they simply don’t know their rights. The Employee Rights Poster regulation, which codifies President Obama’s Executive Order 13496, is a direct response to this problem.
My agency, the Office of Labor-Management Standards, has published a rule that took effect June 20 of this year. This rule requires Federal contractors to provide notice to their employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
The NLRA guarantees the right of employees to organize and to bargain collectively with their employers, and to engage in other protected concerted activity with or without a union, or to refrain from all such activity. The poster lists employee rights under the NLRA to form, join, and support a union and to bargain collectively with their employer; provides examples of unlawful employer and union conduct that interferes with those rights; and indicates how employees can contact the National Labor Relations Board, the Federal agency that enforces those rights, with questions or complaints. You can find out more about this poster here. You can download the poster in English, Spanish or Mandarin from this same website.
It’s really too soon to determine what impact the rule is having, but we do know that Internet page views of the online Employee Rights Posters have risen dramatically. Page views of the two-page English poster jumped dramatically during the period July 15 to August 15, from 684 views to 16,248 views. The single page Spanish poster version during the same period increased from 155 to 1,070, while the single Mandarin poster views rose from 155 to 227.
If you have questions about the poster, where and when it should be posted, please contact your nearest OLMS office. A listing of these offices and their contact information can be found at here.
John Lund is the Director of the Office of Labor-Management Standards