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Labor Rights and Enforcement: Rhode Island

Labor Rights and Enforcement requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: William E. O'Gara, Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O'Gara LLC

Summary

  • The Rhode Island State Labor Relations Act (Act) establishes the right of workers within the state to organize and bargain collectively with their employers, but most private employers and employees are covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). See The Rhode Island State Labor Relations Act.
  • The Act establishes the right to organize and bargain collectively and further it creates a state labor relations board that administers its provisions and handles, among other things, union organization and unfair labor practices. See The Rhode Island State Labor Relations Board.

The Rhode Island State Labor Relations Act

The Rhode Island State Labor Relations Act (Act) establishes the right of workers within the state to organize and bargain collectively with their employers, and further purports to govern the relationship between those employees and employers. See +R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-7-1 et seq. However, most private employers and employees are covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

The Act also specifically excludes Individuals employed by their parents, domestic employees, employees hired only for the duration of a labor dispute, and farm laborers from its definition of "employees." See +R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-7-3(3). Labor organizations are considered "employers" only with respect to those persons actually employed by the organization. See +R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-7-3(4)

As indicated, the Act is modeled after the NLRA and mirrors it in many ways. Indeed, in interpreting and applying the provisions of the Act, the Rhode Island Supreme Court often looks to federal precedent interpreting and applying the provisions of the NLRA for guidance. See Macquattie v. Malafronte, +779 A.2d 633, 636 n. 3 (R.I. 2001).

The Rhode Island Labor Relations Board

Much like the NLRA, the Act establishes a board, the Rhode Island Labor Relations Board (Board), to enforce the provisions of the Act and to handle matters such as union organization and unfair labor practices. See +R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-7-4.

Among other things, the Board determines and certifies appropriate bargaining unit and oversees elections. See +R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-7-15; +R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-7-17. In short, the Board essentially oversees the entire union organization process. In addition, unfair labor practice charges brought pursuant to the Act by employers and/or employees must be filed before the Board. See +R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-7-9.

The Board is statutorily prohibited, however, from mediating, conciliating, or arbitrating any labor dispute brought before it (though it is not prohibited from attempting to obtain voluntary compliance with the provisions of the Act or arbitrating any dispute not brought before it). See +R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-7-10. As a general matter, arbitrations of labor controversies are governed by Chapter 9 of Title 28 of the Rhode Island General Laws.

Future Developments

There are no developments to report at this time. Continue to check XpertHR regularly for the latest information on this and other topics.

Additional Resources

Labor Rights and Enforcement: Federal

The Unionization Process: Federal

Unfair Labor Practices: Federal

Union Avoidance Policy