Overview: A union is any organization of employees who act together to secure benefits and rights in the workplace. The rights and obligations of employers, employees and unions are defined in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Effective union and labor management requires vigilance. Employers should be vigilant about unions organizing in their workplace because once a union is designated as the exclusive representative of the employees - despite the employer's best efforts to avoid union organizing - the employer is then prohibited from attempting to reach individual agreements with employees and must instead bargain with the union. The parties are required to use their best effort to negotiate an agreement setting forth the wages, hours, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment for those employees. By reaching an agreement an employer loses its ability to unilaterally change a term of employment.
Employers should therefore be on the lookout of certain behaviors in their workforce consistent with union organizing such as unusual groups of employees meeting before and after work, an unusual interest by employees in company policies and employee handbooks, heightened sensitivity among employees regarding recent management decisions, and finding employees in work areas they do not normally visit. Employers should also keep "their ears to the ground" for any rumors regarding an employer's lack of responsiveness or an increase of rumors of a general negative tone. By being aware, employers can avoid being blindsided and try to prevent the union from organizing.
Trends: The use of social media by unions to communicate with employees is on the rise. Unions commonly use social media for broad communications and to organize rallies and large scale events. Social media has also become a valuable tool for unions to reach out to potential new members.
Also, there is a growing number of Right to Work states. "Right to Work" laws prohibit a union and an employer from reaching an agreement that requires new employees to become union members or pay union dues as a condition of employment.
Author: Melissa Boyce, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect the fact that West Virginia becomes a "right to work" state, effective July 1, 2016.
Updated to reflect the fact that West Virginia becomes a "right to work" state, July 1, 2016.
Updated to include information on a federal court's decision to temporarily bar the DOL from implementing and enforcing the new persuader rules.
Updated to reflect the labor implications of the NYC Grocery Worker Retention Act, effective May 8, 2016.
The nation's public employee unions have "won" a 4-4 tie at the Supreme Court in a case that could have left their future in doubt. The result means that unions may continue to collect dues from employees they represent, so long as the dues are being used for collective bargaining, contract administration or grievance adjustment purposes.
On March 24, the US Department of Labor (DOL) published a controversial and long-awaited final rule under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) that expands an employer's obligation to report persuader activity - activity engaged in to directly or indirectly persuade employees concerning their rights to organize and collectively bargain.
Updated to include the Alabama Uniform Minimum Wage and Right-to-Work Act, which provides the legislature with the authority to regulate collective bargaining, effective February 25, 2016.
This How To details the steps an employer should take to address labor issues arising during and after a merger.
Justice Antonin Scalia's death last weekend in the midst of the presidential race has put the Supreme Court at the center of a political firestorm. And with his seat likely to remain vacant for the remainder of the term, it figures to have a significant impact on pending labor and employment cases at the nation's highest court.
As a result of West Virginia becoming a "right to work" state on July 1, 2016, several tools have been updated.
Guidance for HR on laws governing unions in the workplace.