Fighting Back Against the "Walk Around" Rule

Date: September 20, 2016 Last Edit: October 06, 2016

Small businesses are being hurt by OSHA’s 2013 “walk around” rule that allows union officials to inspect nonunionized businesses.

Thanks to a rule by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, nonunionized businesses may face health and safety inspections from union officials. But there’s still hope for change. 

The Pacific Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of NFIB that targets OSHA’s 2013 “walk around” rule that allows union officials to serve as third-party participants on OSHA inspection teams, including inspections at businesses that are not unionized. PLF claims the walk around rule was imposed illegally, without notice and comment, and is in violation of OSHA’s authorizing statute and agency regulations. In essence, the lawsuit charges that the 2013 rule acts as a cover-up for trespassing by union officials. 


Small businesses have been impacted by the walk around rule in the past. For example, a small Texas nonunionized business, as well as an NFIB member, received visits from labor representatives on four different occasions as part of OSHA inspections, with the intrusions ending only after the business owner shed light on the harassment on national television. 

Because a typical NFIB member “employs 10 people and reports gross sales of about $500,000 a year,” the lawsuit argues that union representatives have “a strong incentive to submit complaints to OSHA to trigger additional inspections and thereby provide the union representatives with access” to NFIB members’ nonunionized employees. 

The walk around rule “gives union organizers the power to intrude on private workplaces and buttonhole nonunion employees by deputizing these officials as government inspectors,” said PLF Principal Attorney Joshua Thompson

Karen Harned, executive director of the NFIB Small Legal Business Center, agrees. “The walk around rule has nothing to do with worker safety and everything to do with intimidating independent business owners,” she said. “This is purely and simply a bully tactic on the part of the government for the benefit of unions. I can’t think of a more intimidating circumstance for a small business owner than to have a federal inspector show up with an outside union agent whose goal is to solicit complaints and organize the workers.” 

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