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Do Employees Have a Right to Unionize?

right to unionizeIf you work in a non-union business, do you have a right to unionize?

A union helps employees organize and protect their rights in the workplace. Employers can easily ignore the concerns or demands of a single employee, but when they unionize and work together, employers have a lesser choice but to take them seriously.

But what happens if you do not have a union in your workplace? Is organizing an employee union worth your time? Is there any risk involved in forming an employee union?

Here’s what you need to know.

Most Employees Have the Right to Unionize to Improve their Working Conditions

Any employee covered by the National Labor Relations Act is protected if they choose to join together to improve their working conditions or fight for higher wages. This is true whether they are a union member or not.

Employees not currently covered by a union also have a right to attempt to form a union. The right to form a union is a protected employee right. Other employee rights related to unions include:

  • Joining a union regardless of whether the employer recognizes the group or not
  • Assisting a union with organization efforts
  • Refusing to do any or all of these things
  • Receiving fair representation from a union

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRA) protects these rights. The NLRA also protects non-union employees’ rights in the workplace if these activities concern “concerted activity.” Concerted activity refers to the action of two or more employees to improve their working conditions or terms of employment.

A single employee may also engage in “protected concerted activity” if he or she is acting on the authority of other employees.

Examples of concerted activity include:

  • Requesting an increase in pay
  • Discussion of non-pay work-related issues including safety concerns
  • Requesting an improvement in working conditions

Individual employees also receive protection when they are acting on behalf of their co-workers. If a single employee brings a group complaint to the employer or encourages other employees to take action, they are protected.

Who Receives Protection from the NLRA?

It surprises some people to learn that the NLRA protects most private-sector employees. In general, employees that fall under the NLRA protections include:

  • Federal, state, or local government employees
  • Agricultural laborers
  • Domestic service employees
  • Employees of their parent or spouse
  • Employees working as independent contractors
  • Supervisors
  • Railroad and airline employees
  • Employees of anyone not defined in the NLRA

If you’d like to learn more about protections provided by the NLRA, check out their official website.

Knowing whether you have a right to unionize helps you make educated decisions for yourself and for your colleagues.

Benefits of Unionizing

Unionizing is a powerful tool that helps employees improve their work situation. In addition to addressing pay and safety issues, unions ensure that employees have a voice in the workplace.

Benefits of joining or forming a union in the workplace include:

  • Receiving collective bargaining representation that allows the union to negotiate on your behalf, which gives them more power than an individual employee would have
  • Higher earnings
  • More and better healthcare coverage
  • Access to better retirement benefits, including pensions
  • Protection from unjust termination
  • Collective power to negotiate using a strike or work stoppage as a bargaining tool

If you’d like to learn more about unions, visit the website for the AFLCIO.

Do You Want to Know More About Your Right to Unionize?

Unfortunately, attempting to form a union in the workplace is often met with resistance by the employer. Employees should understand their rights concerning concerted activity and unionization. You might have a right to unionize, but you should understand the process before taking action.

For more information or to speak to someone about your workplace situation, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to schedule a free consultation.


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