Manufacturers sue Labor Dept. over union posters

The powerful National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) filed a lawsuit Wednesday, challenging Labor Department regulations that require federal contractors to display posters informing workers of their right to unionize.

The federal lawsuit builds on the group’s successful challenge of similar rules imposed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on all employers.

As in that case, NAM argues that the 2010 rule imposed by the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs violates the First Amendment and exceeds the agency’s authority.

A federal appeals court struck down the NLRB’s rule in May, but the regulations for contractors, prompted by a 2010 executive order issued by President Obama, remain.

The manufacturers group cites the appellate court’s finding that the NLRB rule violated employers’ rights against compelled speech. The First Amendment guarantees both the right to free speech and the right to refrain from speaking, the group argues.

“Essentially what we’re saying with this complaint … is that the government should not violate someone’s rights to make someone else aware of theirs,” said Joe Trauger, NAM’s vice president for human resources policy.

“The federal government is violating employers' First Amendment rights,” he added.

The group contends that businesses that refuse to display posters telling employees they have the right to organize, picket and strike could lose their federal contracts or be denied an opportunity to do business with the government.

The group, however, could not immediately point to a case in which either happened.