Contractors and subcontractors on federal projects will soon have to fully inform their employees of their union-related rights under the National Labor Relations Act, the Department of Labor says.
Beginning June 21, a new DOL rule will require subcontractors “at all tiers” of federal projects to post notice of their workers’ rights to form unions, join unions, bargain collectively, and carry out similar actions. The rule, published May 29 in the Federal Register, implements Executive Order 13496, which President Obama issued on Jan. 30, 2009.
The rule (29 CFR 471; “Notification of Employee Rights Under Federal Labor Laws”) exempts subcontractors whose contract on the regulated project is less than $10,000.
Obama’s order was prompted by the federal government’s concern for both workers’ rights and the smooth operation of federally funded projects.
‘‘When the Federal Government contracts for goods or services, it has a proprietary interest in ensuring that those contracts will be performed by contractors whose work will not be interrupted by labor unrest,” the order said.
“The attainment of industrial peace is most easily achieved and workers’ productivity is enhanced when workers are well informed of their rights under Federal labor laws….”
Under the new rule, employees must be notified of their federal right to:
• Organize, join or assist a union;
• Bargain collectively through a union;
• Discuss terms of employment with co-workers or a union;
• Join other workers in raising work-related complaints with the employer, governing agency or the public;
• Seek and receive help from a union (under certain conditions);
• Rally, leaflet and take other actions on non-work time to improve working conditions;
• Strike and picket (unless bound by a no-strike clause), although it warns “in some circumstances, your employer may permanently replace strikers”; and/or
• Choose not to do any of these.
About one-third of the rule's public comments came from critics, many of whom contended that the notice promoted unionization by detailing so many labor-related rights. The critics also noted that an employee's right not to organize was noted only briefly, at the end of the union-related list.