In another blow to the nation's dwindling labor unions, an appeals court Tuesday struck down a federal rule that would have required millions of businesses to put up posters informing workers of their right to form a union.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the National Labor Relations Board violated employers' free speech rights in trying to force them to display the posters or face charges of committing an unfair labor practice.
Unions had hoped the posters would help them boost falling membership, but business groups argued that they were too one-sided in favor of unionization.
The court's ruling is the latest success for business groups that have worked to prevent the NLRB from shifting the legal landscape in favor of labor unions, despite President Barack Obama's appointment of several labor-friendly board members.
Earlier this year, the same appeals court threw into question hundreds of other NLRB decisions after finding that Obama's recess appointments to the board were unconstitutional. The Obama administration is appealing that decision to the Supreme Court.
The poster rule would have required more than 6 million businesses to display an 11-by-17-inch notice in a prominent location explaining the rights of workers to join a union and bargain collectively to improve wages and working conditions. The posters also made clear that workers have a right not to join a union or be coerced by union officials.
A three-judge panel of the court ruled that the National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of employers not to publish the government's poster if they find the language in it objectionable. That protection is similar to the First Amendment freedom of speech, said Judge A. Raymond Randolph, who was appointed to the court in 1990 by president George H.W. Bush.
The board had argued that the rule was needed because many workers were not aware of their right to engage in collective bargaining.