Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) in 1935 to protect the rights of workers to organize and join a union of their choosing. It is important to remember that the federal government has laws to keep employers from using threats and other bullying tactics to keep workers from exercising their power.
This provision makes clear that workers have the right to engage in organizing activities to help start a union in their workplace. They can work as a team to help each other and deal with the employer as a group, rather than only individually. So long as the actions violate no other laws, workers have the right to take actions necessary to gain their desired goals.
Specific organizing activities which are protected include the signing of union cards, getting others to sign cards, attending union meetings, wearing union buttons, passing out union literature, and talking about the union to other employees. However, employees do not have the right to carry on union activity during working hours so as to interfere with their jobs (time on breaks is not considered part of “work time” for this purpose).
This provision makes it illegal for an employer to interfere with their employees’ right to start a union. Anything the employer does to infringe upon workers’ free choice in deciding whether to join a union violates the law.
An employer is not supposed to push employees about how they feel about the union, which employees have signed authorization cards, or which workers are leading the effort to organize. They also cannot ask about attendance at union meetings or what was discussed at union meetings. It is none of their business.
The employer is also prohibited from taking the following actions as a means of influencing workers:
- Promising raises, promotions, or benefits
- Threatening to take away benefits
- Cutting out overtime
- Transferring to a less desirable job
- Suspension or discharge
If the employer engages in any of these actions, and it is proven such actions were in response to union activity, the employer must then reinstate the employee to their former position without loss of seniority as well as pay all lost wages with interest.