Labor unions, also known as trade unions, are organized groups of workers that collectively bargain with companies and advocate for employees’ rights. In the United States, union activity can be traced to the mid-nineteenth century. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 11% of American workers belong to unions today.
Union Laws and Right to Work in Washington
In Washington, 49.36 RCW outlines the laws that pertain to labor unions. This includes regulations about their right to organize, individual employees’ right to enter into contract work and alter their contracts, and acts of persecution that are illegal to take against unions and individual employees.
Washington is not a Right to Work state. Right to Work is a term used to describe states that have laws that guarantee legal protection for employees who choose not to join their respective field’s union. In non-Right to Work states, certain employees may be required to join a union.
The Washington State Labor Council is the statewide organization that supports and works with local unions. This network provides a sense of community among unionized workers in Washington and helps support each group’s individual needs within its industry. Groups in industries from professional bakers to steelworkers are part of the Washington State Labor Council.
Examples of Retaliation
In industries where union membership is not required for employees, some workers still might want the added protection of a union. Participation in a union can mean more flexible work schedules, better pay and benefits, and greater job security for members. These all come at a cost to the employer. Some companies are either subtly or adamantly against unions for their employees and might react to suspected or confirmed union activity through targeted attacks on an individual or group of employees’ jobs. Some examples of retaliation are:
- Terminating an employee because of his or her suspected or confirmed union membership;
- Increasing surveillance of an employee or group of employees while at work;
- Harassing the employee or group of employees who have been involved with the union;
- Denying an individual employee a promotion despite his or her qualification for the higher position;
- Threatening personal or professional harm to the employee or group of employees suspected of union activity;
- Pursuing unfounded criminal or civil charges against the employee or group of employees; and
- Giving negative performance reviews or references for employees suspected of union activity.
All of the above actions are illegal under RCW 49.60. As an employee, you have the right to organize a union with your colleagues and advocate for your rights in the workplace.
Employment Attorneys Can Help
If you’ve experienced retaliation from your employer because of your involvement with union activity, you deserve justice. Call HKM Employment Attorneys LLP at 206-838-2504 to discuss the details of your case with one of our firm’s expert employment attorneys. Our team at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP is here to protect your rights as a working American. Don’t let your employer infringe on those rights.
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