Workplace Rights

Weekly (11/1/21)

Topic of the Week  Unions and Collective Action in the Workplace

A labor union is an organization of workers joined to protect their common interests and improve their working conditions. It serves as an intermediary between the employer and the employees. The main purpose is to give workers power to negotiate more favorable working conditions through collective bargaining.

Q: What is a collective bargaining agreement?
 A collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is an agreement negotiated between a labor union and an employer that sets forth the terms of employment for members of that union. A CBA may include provisions regarding wages, vacation time, working hours, working conditions and health insurance benefits.

Q: What is the National Labor Relations Act?
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), passed in 1935, guarantees basic rights of private sector employees to organize trade unions, engage in collective bargaining and enjoy other rights like striking. The NLRA covers employees who work for employers involved in interstate commerce. The term interstate commerce has been interpreted broadly over the years and basically includes any employer whose business involves more than one state. 

Q:  I'm interested in working towards organizing a union at work. Is it illegal for my employer to retaliate against me for my union activities?
For most workers, organizing a union is the only way to legally require an employer to negotiate over wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment. Without a union, employers are free to change the rules at any time, without question. With a union, the parties have a duty to share relevant information and bargain. Many employers spend a significant amount of money and effort to oppose union organizing. Some employers, however, might use threats, intimidation or retaliation to make workers afraid of losing their jobs if they support the union. These measures are illegal.

Thought of the Week

"I think because of the pandemic, the country has taken a second look at unions and they like what they see. Workers are finding power in each other. And this is a moment of great opportunity for the labor movement to build on this momentum."

–Tim Schlittener, AFL-CIO

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

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