What Fresh Hell Is This?

January 2, 2011

The Trib's Misleading Use Of Quotation Marks

Take a look at this from today's Op-Ed page from Scaife's Tribune-Review:
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which includes three recess appointments by President Obama, has proposed a new rule requiring most private-sector employers to inform workers of their "rights" -- specifically their right to unionize. Notice of this new rule was submitted last month to the Federal Register, which allows a 60-day comment period.

It would require that the "rights" notice be posted alongside all other workplace memos -- or sent electronically if an employer uses e-mail to communicate with staffers.

The NLRB rule couldn't be more union-sympathetic: "(E)mployees have the right to act together to improve wages and working conditions, to form, join and assist a union, to bargain collectively with their employers, and to choose not to do any of these activities."
You'd think that the use of the quotationed word ("rights") means that those "rights" don't exist. That it's a ironic use of the quotation marks.

Kinda like when I call the Tribune-Review a "news" paper.

However, let's take a look at the actual NLRB notice. It can be found here and it begins like this:
The National Labor Relations Board has submitted to the Federal Register a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which provides for a 60-day comment period. The rule would require employers to notify employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
As the Notice states, the Board “believes that many employees protected by the NLRA are unaware of their rights under the statute. The intended effects of this action are to increase knowledge of the NLRA among employees, to better enable the exercise of rights under the statute, and to promote statutory compliance by employers and unions.”
So what's this "National Labor Relations Act" and what does it say about the right (or the "right") to organize?

Take a look:
Sec. 7. [§ 157.] Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all such activities except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment as authorized in section 8(a)(3) [section 158(a)(3) of this title]. [emphasis added.]
This has got to be something new, right? I mean that's the only reason why the braintrust would use the scare quotes, right?

The NLRA was enacted in 1935. These legal rights have been around for 75 years.

And yet the Trib misleads its readers into thinking that those rights aren't rights at all.

And anyway, how surprising is it that a pro-business paper like the Trib would want to make sure that employees don't know they have the legal right to organize. Or that it's considered an unfair labor practice for an employer to interfere with that right?

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