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DOL rescinds rule on Beck rights notice pursuant to Obama executive order

The Department of Labor's Office of Labor-Management Standards has published a final rule rescinding agency regulations implementing and enforcing Executive Order 13201, a Bush-era directive that had required federal contractors to post notice to employees of their "Beck" rights under federal law. The agency action was taken pursuant to Executive Order 13496, signed by President Barack Obama on January 30, 2009, which revoked EO 13201.

EO 13201, issued by former President George W. Bush on February 17, 2001, required federal contractors and subcontractors to provide notice to employees of their statutorily-protected "Beck" rights --including their rights not to join a labor union and to object to the use of their agency-fee payments for purposes unrelated to collective bargaining --so named pursuant to the 1988 Supreme Court ruling in Communication Workers v Beck (USSCt 1988), 109 LC ¶10,548.

President Obama's EO 13496, published in the Federal Register on February 4, 2009, revoked the Bush mandate and instructed executive departments and agencies to revoke any orders, rules, regulations, or policies implementing or enforcing EO 13201. Accordingly, the DOL's final rule rescinds the regulations found at 29 CFR part 470, which implemented EO 13201. Obama's EO removed the Department of Labor's authority under which the regulations were promulgated, the agency noted, thus the implementing regulations are now without force and effect.

EO 13496 was one of several directives issued by President Obama shortly after his inauguration, enacted with the intention of undoing his predecessor's federal labor policies for government contractors. "I believe that we have to reverse many of the policies towards organized labor that we've seen these last eight years, policies with which I've sharply disagreed," Obama said, announcing his administration's change of course.

In revoking EO 13201, Obama replaced the Bush mandate with a broader obligation requiring federal contractors to inform their employees of all protected rights under the National Labor Relations Act, not just their Beck rights. This more balanced approach presumably will require contractors also to post notice of employees' rights to join a union and of the protections from interference or retaliation embodied in the Act. Under EO 13496, the Secretary of Labor is to prescribe the content of the actual notice. The Obama order instructed the Secretary, within 120 days, to initiate a rulemaking process to prescribe the size, form, and content of the required notice.

The Labor Department's final rule revoking the regulations implementing EO 13021 was published in the Federal Register on Monday, March 30, 2009 (74 FR 14045). The rule took effect immediately upon publication.

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