NLRB Sets New Standards For Who Can Join Unions

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In a 3-2 vote (Bush appointees comprising the 3), the National Labor Relations Board has re-defined the meaning of the term “supervisor,” with the result that millions of American workers may be barred from joining labor unions. The ruling defined as supervisors any nurses who direct and oversee other nursing staff. These definitions can be–and it is expected that they will be–applied to workers in a variety of industries.

For example, restaurant shift supervisors, who wait tables and run the cash register, could, under the new ruling, be exempt from joining a union. Many large retailers, including Home Depot, Abercrombie & Fitch and Staples, have already been sued by employees for denying them overtime because they were classified as supervisors, despite the fact that they rarely supervised anyone.

The NLRB decision actually came from three different cases, one involving a Michigan hospital, one involving a nursing home in Minnesota, and one involving employees at a manufacturing plant in Mississippi.

The AFL-CIO predicts that as many as 34 million workers–23% of the national labor force–could be affected by this new ruling.

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