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
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects the rights of employees to engage in "concerted activity for mutual aid or protection" to improve their wages, benefits and working conditions. Protected concerted activity includes, even in the absence of a union, activity by employees on behalf of co-workers or interacting with others to achieve a common goal.
New guidance is available to help an employer determine whether activity engaged in by a union or non-union employee is protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects the rights of an employee to organize and form a union in order to address issues regarding wages, hours and working conditions. An employee, even in the absence of a union, also has the right to engage in protected concerted activity- acting on behalf of co-workers or interacting with others for the legitimate furtherance of their common interests.
New guidance is available to help an employer understand what it may and may not do or say during the union campaign.
In a decision that may have widespread implications for college sports, a Regional Director for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has determined that Northwestern University football players receiving scholarships are "employees" under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). As a result, the Regional Director directed an election to be conducted so that "all football players who receive football grant-in-aid scholarship and not having exhausted their playing eligibility" at Northwestern can vote whether they want to be represented by a union.
New guidance is available to help a multistate employer understand its responsibilities and obligations when managing union-related issues in "Right to Work" and "Non-Right to Work" states.
Employers may assume that all issues relating to union organization and collective bargaining will be governed by the federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). However, the fact is that the NLRA has left certain union-related matters up to the states.
According to a news release issued by the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 15 major work stoppages in 2013, down from 19 work stoppages in 2012. The term "work stoppage," as used by the BLS, includes strikes initiated by workers as well as lockouts initiated by employers that involve 1,000 or more workers and last at least one shift.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has reissued proposed amendments to rules and regulations that would streamline and shorten the time for representation case procedures governing the union election process. The amendments are identical to those first proposed by the NLRB in 2011, which were later struck down by a district court judge because the NLRB lacked a quorum when the amendments were adopted.
According to the new annual report released by the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the percentage of private sector workers who are union members increased from 6.6 percent in 2012 to 6.7 percent in 2013.
Guidance for HR on laws governing unions in the workplace.