As I mentioned last week (when in Connecticut, we were focused on Irene), the NLRB has been busy in August issuing new rules and new rulings.

Some people are expressing surprise at the shift seen in these rules and disgust that prior NLRB rules are effectively being overturned.  But none of this should be surprising whatsoever.

Indeed, back in 2009, when the NLRB chairperson was nominated, I quoted another blog as saying that “As Chairman of the NLRB, it can be reasonably expected that she will direct the Board’s energies to enforcing labor laws, promoting collective bargaining, and issuing rulings that effectively overturn a number of Bush-era NLRB rulings that organized labor and some Democratic Senators are determined to reverse. … As a proponent of unions, Liebman will surely do just that if given the opportunity.”

But lest you think this is a Republicans vs. Democrats issue, it’s not. It is what every NLRB has done for a generation.  Indeed, when President Bush took over in 2001, his appointees shifted the board.  Rulings were overturned and new rules and regulations for employers were barely seen or heard from.

Personally, I think its terrible that we have a government agency so blatantly political (on either side).  It prevents employers and employees from having settled expectations and it undermines the entire judicial system when cases are overturned for political purposes (under the guise of the Rule of Law).

But this is the reality of the agency.  Rather than cry foul over the latest changes and be indigent, we’re best off when we understand the changes that are taking place and respond accordingly.

Others have done a good job explaining the changes so I’m merely going to summarize them here with links to further resources if you have an interest in a particular topic.

New Postings

First and perhaps more importantly, a new NLRB effective by November 14, 2011 will require basically all private sector employers to put up a new posting regarding unions.  The notice is in some ways similar to what some employers have to post after an unfair labor practice charge for for federal contractors.  The text of the notice is linked here. The NLRB has a FAQ on the new rule here.

Although I can’t imagine employers are happy about the notice, these types of notices are put up on bulletin boards all the time.  I’ve yet to see an employee standing and actually reading them.  Besides, if employees wanted to find out more about a union, they could type “how do I form a union” into Google.   You get 173 million responses.

Bottom Line: Stop worrying about whether a poster is going to lead to a union and worry about the overall environment instead.  Oh, and just get a copy of the poster and put it up.

New Cases

The NLRB also issued three new cases this week, that overturns some key precedents on a union majority status.  (You can read a summary here.) One case overturns precedent which had adopted a special test for bargaining unit determinations in nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and other non-acute health care facilities. According to the NLRB, employees at such facilities will now be subject to the same “community-of-interest” standard that the Board has traditionally applied at other workplaces.”

Another case questions whether employees always have a right to a secret ballot election.  In rare circumstances, where card-checks are used, the employee may not have a right have that right.

Bottom Line: If you have an interest in labor law, you’ll want to followup to see if any of the rules have a particular application to your business; some are more technical than substantive.