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A federal judge ruled Friday that the National Labor Relations Board cannot require millions of private employers to put up posters informing workers of their right to form a union.
U.S. District Judge David Norton in South Carolina said the labor board exceeded congressional authority when it approved the poster requirement last year.
The decision Friday conflicts with a ruling last month by another federal judge in Washington, D.C., who found the posters were a reasonable means to make workers aware of collective bargaining rights.
Both lawsuits were brought business groups that claim the posters are too one-sided in favor of unions. The labor board contends the posters simply explain workers' rights and protections under federal labor law.
NLRB spokeswoman Nancy Cleeland said attorneys were reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment. The rule was supposed to take effect on April 30.
While the board is expected to appeal the South Carolina decision, it is unclear whether it will continue to enforce the rule in other jurisdictions.
"We would hope they would suspend the regulation until all these legal uncertainties can be sorted out," said Randel Johnson, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's vice president on labor issues.
Labor unions had praised the rule, saying many workers are unaware of their legal right to organize.
In his ruling Friday, Norton said the power to make employers post notices explaining the law must come from Congress, but the National Labor Relations Act grants no such power to the labor board. By contrast, Congress did give that power to other agencies, including those that regulate employment discrimination and workplace safety.
Norton also found it telling that the board went 75 years without requiring such a notice "but it has now decided to flex its newly discovered rulemaking muscles."
The NLRB rule requires nearly every private business to post an 11-by-17-inch notice in a prominent location explaining the right to bargain collectively, distribute union literature and engage in other union activities without reprisal from employers.
It also explains that workers have a right not to join a union and that it is illegal for union officials to coerce employees into joining a union.