Workers shouldn’t be obliged to organize a union, but they should at least know the option exists. Last Thursday, the National Labor Relations Board announced it was requiring that every workplace post a flyer that spells out workers’ right to organize. The flyer, the size of a sheet of copy paper that could be thumb-tacked to a bulletin board, would hang alongside existing posters alerting workers about minimum wage, worker’s compensation, OSHA, and other workplace issues.
While adding one more flyer to the company bulletin board seems relatively inconsequential, it has drawn waves of condemnation from business groups who claim it is “anti-business’’ and “a gift to organized labor.’’
This new rule does not expand workers’ rights, most of which have been in place for over 75 years. Instead, it makes sure workers know their existing rights, at no additional cost to their employers.
In the 21st century, reasonable people can disagree about what role unions should play in a fast-changing global economy. Reasonable arguments can be made that private sector unions are more important than ever, or are tired remnants of a different era, or are valuable institutions that are in need of reform.
But whatever one’s stake in the labor debate, it shouldn’t be played out over whether workers should learn their rights. The decision of whether to organize and bargain collectively should not be made by the AFL-CIO, the US Chamber of Commerce, or any of the other labor and business groups jousting for influence in Washington. It’s a choice for individual employees. They deserve the information they need to make it.