The vast majority of employees in the United States are employed "at will." This means that your employer can terminate you for a good reason, bad reason or no reason at all. Some employers make it a point, especially during hire or in policy manuals, to remind their employees that they are employed "at will" but at the same time fail to mention that employees' "at will" employment is not entirely at their discretion, rather, you and your co-workers have a choice in whether it remains that way. There are some alternatives to "at will" employment for employees, the main being choosing to work under a union collective bargaining agreement, which is protected under the National Labor Relations Act and enforced by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Employee Rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
Section 7 of the NLRA states in part: "Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations,to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing,and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection"
This means a few things, some of which include:
- Forming a union in your workplace even if one has never existed;
- Assisting a union that is attempting to organize your workplace; and
- Participating in union activity such as attending meetings, speaking with union representatives and organizers, voting in union elections, and promoting a union in your workplace.
Employees also have the right to engage in other protected concerted activities for mutual aid and protection while at work. Examples of this include, but are not limited to:
- Two or more employees addressing their employer about concerns of safety, pay, benefits, discipline, work rules, working hours, and harassment, among other issues;
- Two or more employees seeking help together with an administrative agency such as the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the United States Department of Labor, or filing a civil action against your employer in good faith; and
- One employee speaking on behalf of other employees to improve working conditions.
Some actions that your employer cannot take against you if you participate in union or protected concerted activities:
- Tell you that you cannot speak with each other about how much they pay you or maintain and enforce rules that prohibit the same;
- Tell you that they know, make comments or behave in a manner that suggests that they know, that you are participating in union activities in order to make you afraid;
- Tell you that it would be useless for you to select a union as your bargaining representative or say that they will never agree to a union contract;
- Tell you or ask you to quit your employment if you want a union or participate in protected concerted activities;
- Watch you or take pictures of you while you are participating in union activities;
- Ask you about or insist that you reveal your union activities or the union activities of your co-workers;
- Ask you what your workplace issues are and imply or promise that they will be corrected in order to dissuade you from supporting a union;
- Threaten you in any manner for participating in union or protected concerted activities;
- Discriminate against you by assigning you harder or less desirable work for union and protected concerted activity;
- Discriminate against you by firing, suspending, or laying you off because of union and protected concerted activity;
- Discriminate against you by withholding wage increases, promotions or other workplace benefits because of union and protected concerted activity;
- Discriminate against you by lowering your wages or benefits because you engage in union and protected concerted activities;
- Discriminate against you by promising or granting improved benefits and wages in order to dissuade you from supporting a union;
- Form, dominate or administer a labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it that "deals" with employees in order to dissuade you from forming, joining or assisting a real labor organization;
- Retaliate against employees who give testimony to the NLRB or participate in an NLRB investigation or administrative proceeding;
- Maintain or create workplace rules that prohibit or limit your right to participate in union or protected concerted activities (check your employee manual or watch out for verbal rules that prohibit speaking about wages, discipline and other working conditions, or rules that broadly prohibit solicitation and distribution of material, rules that prohibit you from returning to the workplace after your work shift or force you to leave the premises or property immediately following your shift or prohibit you from wearing pins, buttons or stickers where no business justification exists); and
- Enforce illegal rules or enforce legal rules in a disparate manner in order to prohibit or limit your right to engage in union activity. For example, if you are allowed to wear shirts, hats or buttons, etc., that contain sports or other miscellaneous logos on them, then you are generally allowed to wear the same that contain union insignia. If you are allowed to post personal items such as advertisements on billboards, then you are generally allowed to post union related information on them also. If you are allowed to speak about sports, family, food or any other non-work related topic while performing your work, then you are generally allowed to speak about the benefits of unionization while performing your work.
In general, an employer cannot discriminate against you for union activity while at the same time allowing other non-work related activity or conversations to occur while at work.
Here are some examples of employees that we have recently helped that prove that employees just like you have the rights under the National Labor Relations Act described above:
Ironworker Jennings Bail (pictured below) received $12,720 in gross backpay because he was illegally refused a job in violation of the National Labor Relations Act and is currently a successful Union Ironworker.
Ironworker Robert Andree received $6,680.00 in gross back pay because he was illegally discriminated against for trying to gain representation for himself and fellow co-workers.
Ironworker Charles M Williams received $9,732.00 in gross back pay because he was illegally discriminated against under the National Labor Relations Act.
Just consider that Unions strive to, and typically do, get you higher wages and improved benefits and working conditions while many non-union contractors are members of their own type of “brotherhood.” A brotherhood called the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) that strives to keep wages and benefits lower for you, just see the picture below for the proof:
Yes, that bottom bullet point does say "STOP Spoiling Your Hourly Employees with High Prevailing Wage Rates"!!! Why would your employer not want you to have higher wages? We can't answer that question with 100% certainty, but we do have more than a few educated guesses. Remember, there is one thing assured; WE DO WANT YOU TO HAVE HIGHER WAGES and while your employer probably wants you to remain employed "at will" and without representation; WE WILL REPRESENT YOU AND PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS!