Imagine a frustrated union organizer having a hard time persuading a group of employees to sign cards. That organizer will undoubtedly be delighted to learn that on August 30, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a proposed rule that would allow unions (and certain others) to participate in OSHA inspections. If the rule is adopted, the organizer can boast that the federal government views unions as having an important role in protecting employees. As the saying goes, “You can’t buy advertising like that.”
As much as unions may be delighted, employers have cause for concern. An OSHA inspection is difficult enough without a potentially antagonistic third party looking for opportunities to criticize. Granted, there are plenty of union representatives and union employees who have a sincere desire to improve safety. But it is naïve to think that some won’t succumb to the temptation to try to exploit their new federally recognized role.
Already some employer voices are sounding the alarm. There is little time to waste. This same rule was adopted by OSHA under the Obama administration and was later reversed by a federal court. It seems logical that on this second attempt, OSHA will be determined to see the proposed rule succeed. The comment period on the proposed rule remains open only until October 30. To leave a comment visit the proposed rule on the Federal Register website and make sure to follow the public submission requirements listed here.
This latest proposed rule by OSHA follows a slew of new rules and decisions by OSHA’s sister agency, the National Labor Relations Board. Considered together, the rules and decisions establish a much easier path for union organizers to follow. Employers would be wise to take note of the direction the tide is flowing and review their policies and practices before they are confronted by an organizing effort.
For any questions regarding this new rule and how it may apply to your business, please contact the author or a member of the Steptoe & Johnson Labor Relations Team or Workplace Safety/OSHA Team.