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Court issues ruling on union posters

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: May 07 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: May 08 2013 05:42:13 PM CDT

It's just a poster, but it's igniting a national debate over labor unions.

It's just a poster, but it's igniting a national debate over labor unions. 

A federal appeals court said businesses nationwide do not have to post union rights posters.

The ruling came after a Lehigh Valley business owner sued. John Brinson isn't shy about his feelings for organized labor.

"Unions are not necessary," he said.  "In fact, they're a disruption."

As owner of three area health clubs, Brinson was furious when the National Labor Relations Board ordered businesses to display posters telling workers they have the right to join a union.

"I don't want to encourage my employees to form a union," he said.

So Brinson sued. Last week, he and the National Federation of Independent Businesses won in a federal appeals court in Washington. A lower court sided with the NLRB earlier, but an injunction kept the poster rule from going into effect.

Unions claim, without the posters, workers won't know their rights.

"It's another avenue for big business to keep people dumb," said Jerry Green with the United Steelworkers Union in Bethlehem.  "They need to be educated, at the very least."

Brinson disagreed.

"Everybody knows they can form a union," he said.  "You want to form a union, all you have to do is talk to your fellow workers and get one going."

Green said it's not nearly that easy.

"Employers, they'll threaten, and if that doesn't work, they'll bribe potential members," he said.  "It's just another nail in our coffin."

Unions may not be on their death bed, but they are certainly struggling.  The nation watched as Wisconsin's collective-bargaining law fell.  Here in Pennsylvania, membership is down from 21 percent two decades ago to just under 14 percent in 2012.

Labor lost a bid in Congress to make it easier to unionize businesses, and several states have passed "Right to Work" laws -- allowing non-union employees to be hired at union shops.

Visitors from "right to work" states had mixed feelings about unions.

"I think it's made it easier for them to recruit and get industry into North Carolina now," said Greg Sulin, visiting from Chapel Hill, N.C.

But Mike Albertson, of St. Petersburg, Fla., said:  "The workers' rights are being diminished pretty much, I think it might be good to get back into the union atmosphere."

The NLRB is still deciding whether to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.