A group of workers who band together to negotiate on an equal basis with management is known as a labor union. Employers are more inclined to hear the complaints of employees who are members of a labor organization since they have a collective voice.
The Major League Baseball Players Association serves as an illustration of a labor union. The union represents baseball players who work for Major League Baseball teams. Although every player has the right to discuss contract details with their clubs, the MLBPA bargains with Major League Baseball to create a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
The CBA specifies issues like the minimum wage a player may be paid, the season’s schedule, and the terms of free agency. This gives people some leeway to set up their own contracts while allowing the MLBPA to negotiate to assure particular terms for its players.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is another example of a labor organization. It represents a number of blue-collar workers, including truck drivers, warehouse workers, sanitation workers, and construction workers. The union bargains for wages, benefits, and working conditions for its members.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), passed by Congress in 1935, is the union labor law that provides protection for labor unions. The NLRA protects workers’ rights to union representation. Additionally, the NLRA forbids employers from interfering with their employees’ decision to join a union. Additionally, it supports collective bargaining through its provisions.
The Taft-Hartley Act, an addendum to the NLRA, further controls unions by prohibiting them from pressuring workers into joining or refusing to engage in good-faith negotiations with employers. Additionally, the act restricts unions from levying excessive dues and prohibits the use of threats or violence to advance union agendas.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an administrative body that adjudicates conflicts between employers and unions, was formed by the NLRA. The NLRB also chooses which union will represent a particular set of workers. The Board has developed rules and steps for organizing unions. Additionally, the NLRB employs a General Counsel who develops policies and guidelines for collective bargaining and looks into unfair negotiating complaints from employers or unions.
Many states have laws addressing the subject of unions, as well as state labor union rules and regulations, in addition to the federal NLRA. Several of these states have legislation that resembles the NLRA. Employers not covered by the federal law may nevertheless be subject to them.
What Activities are Forbidden?
The NLRA forbids certain union activities, such as the following:
- A threat to terminate workers’ employment if they don’t support the union;
- Seeking to penalize a worker for not belonging to a union despite the worker having paid or pledged to pay the necessary dues;
- Refusing to address a grievance filed by an employee in a jurisdiction where union security clauses are prohibited because the employee has insulted the union or because the employee is not a union member;
- Attempting to impose fines on workers who have lawfully quit their union or crossed an illegal picket line;
- Behavior on picket lines, such as making threats, hitting people, or preventing non-strikers from entering the employer’s property;
- Striking about topics such as politics that have nothing to do with the terms and conditions of employment.
When a union is certified by the vote of the workers in a particular place of employment, the NLRA imposes a duty on both employer and union to engage in “good faith” collective bargaining over the future terms and conditions of employment. Collective bargaining happens when employers and unionized employees meet and negotiate the terms and conditions of employment in the employer’s business.
How Is a Labor Union Formed?
There are two options for workers interested in starting a union: either they can choose an existing union or start their own. It is highly challenging to start a new union; most frequently, workers unionize through labor union elections. In any case, the NLRB must certify a union (a federal agency). Here are the steps to forming a union.
Before expressing their readiness to organize a union, an employee must first sign an authorization card. A minimum of 30% of the workforce must sign the ballots for an election to form a union. A majority of the workers must sign the cards in order for a new union to be formed. A union cannot be formed in any other case.
If enough authorization cards have been signed, they are sent to the NLRB for approval of a union election as an appropriate bargaining unit (ABU). Only ABU employees will have their union election approved by the NLRB. This indicates that the workers are non-management and work in a nearby geographic area. They also have similar obligations placed on them.
If the aforementioned conditions are satisfied, the NLRB will certify and preside over a union election.
How Many Employees Are Needed to Form a Labor Union?
Employees can unionize even if the company just has a small number of non-supervisory employees.
All private enterprises participating in interstate commerce are subject to the National Labor Relations Act, which essentially applies to every small firm in the country. A suitable “bargaining unit” under the NLRA might be composed of two or more qualified employees who “have a community of interest.”
How Are Labor Union Elections Held?
The NLRB presides over a union election during the process of forming a union. Employees of the NLRB ensure that the election is free and open to all eligible voters. The NLRB next tallies the ballots and appoints the winning union as the negotiating agent for the electorate of workers.
The old collective bargaining agreement remains in effect until a new one can be decided upon and put into effect if an existing one expires before the parties can agree to a new one. Of course, the agreement must be approved by a majority of the union members before it can go into force. Naturally, a collective bargaining agreement might be extended if both sides so desire. To do so, the membership would need to approve the extension by a majority vote, at which point the agreement would become effective. The deal would need to be renegotiated if the membership were to reject it.
All of the terms and conditions of employment, including pay, overtime pay, the availability of paid vacation days and their value, the availability of paid sick days and their value, the conditions under which benefits are provided to employees, and other factors, may be covered by a collective bargaining agreement.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me?
The day-to-day operations of a union to representation in federal and state courts, boards, and commissions are just a few of the topics that a labor relations lawyer may address. Thus, to ensure that your labor law concerns are appropriately addressed, talking with a professional and experienced labor lawyer is essential.
Typically, the union’s representatives will hire the union’s attorney. Depending on its size, a union may hire more than one attorney for extraordinary circumstances, such as when the union needs to represent itself in court and another to handle its regular legal matters.
If you ever need to engage a labor relations attorney, you want to be sure they have the expertise and are knowledgeable about that branch of the law.