In 1935, Congress created the National Labor Relations Act, or NLRA, “to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.”
As noted, the NLRA rules apply to both the employer and the employee. The purpose of these rules are to create a fair workplace environment that respects both the rights of employees to unionize and the ability of the employer to be profitable. While unions do not hold the same place in the American labor scene as they did years ago, labor unions are still a significant factor in the workforce and are designed so that American workers can have a safe work environment and are treated fairly.
With respect to the rights of employees, the NLRA provides that the following employer actions are unfair labor practices:
- Interfering with employees’ section 7 rights;
- Dominating or interfering with the formation or administration of a labor organization;
- Discriminating against employees for participating in, or refraining from, concerted or union activities;
- Retaliating against employees for filing charges or giving testimony;
- Refusing to bargain collectively.
As mentioned, the NLRA prohibits employers from interfering with or restraining employees concerning section 7 rights. Section 7 rights are the rights of employees to organize and engage in collective bargaining. Examples of section 7 prohibited employer actions are:
- Rules prohibiting solicitation, communications, or wearing of union insignia;
- Threats and coercion directed against employees;
- Promises of benefits or other inducements to discourage union activity;
- Interrogation in the context of organizational campaigns; and
- Surveillance of union activities.
Dominating or Interfering with Labor Organization Formation
The NLRA prohibits employers from using influence against organized labor formation. This can occur when an employer only allows one labor union access to employees while denying other labor unions the same access. This is seen as an employer influencing and controlling union operation, which is supposed to be for the benefit of employees. Similarly, an employer or supervisor who threatens termination against an employee unless that employee joins a specific union is another example of employer dominance or interference with the formation of a labor union.
Discriminating Against Employee’s for Participating in Union Activity
This rule applies to both the workplace environment and to the hiring and firing process. An employer may hire or fire based on merit but may not based on union or possible union membership and activity.
An employer is prohibited from retaliating against an employee for union membership and activity. This also includes when an employee files charges with NLRA or provides testimony against the employer before an NLRA board. This rule is known as the anti-retaliation rule.
Refusing to Bargain Collectively
NLRA rules require that a employer bargain with a duly recognized union in good faith. Among other things, this rules bans an employer from making unilateral changes to employment contracts.
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