The National Labor Relations Board has ordered an Indianapolis-based construction staffing firm to allow workers to discuss unions and compensation on the job.
Commercial Trade Source, or CTS, is one of few companies to fight this battle at the federal level. It's effectively a temp agency, providing skilled workers for construction projects nationwide.
Until now, CTS policy forbade workers from discussing wages or unionization on the job -- whether through conversation, flyers or union-branded clothing.
John Kurek of the Indiana State Pipe Trades Association says that's illegal, but not uncommon. He says at companies like CTS, laborers know they're replaceable.
"Workers fear for their jobs -- a lot of people don't want to speak up," he says. "They may know that they're not being paid correctly, or they may be in a situation that may not be necessarily legal or may be unsafe, and workers don't really feel like they have a strong voice."
He says most companies change their policies once employees blow the whistle, but CTS did not. Union workers first reported the practices back in 2014. A year later, nothing had changed.
"They just never complied with the settlement," he says. "That's why it went to the level it went to."
The federal decision orders the company to repeal the anti-union policies, and to post notices informing employees of their rights to discuss compensation and to organize.