When Congress enacted The National Labor Relations Act in 1935, it granted employees the right to join or form a union and “engage in protected, concerted activities to address or improve working conditions.” Before the National Labor Relations Act, employers within the US were free to punish or fire groups seeking higher pay or better benefits. Naomi Soldon, of Soldon McCoy, a Wisconsin law firm with more than 75 years representing unions in different industries and professions, has throughout her career sought to educate the public on the intricacies of general labor laws. To better help groups looking to form a union, Naomi Soldon will discuss various union rights and ways employers frequently attempt to interfere with these groups.
While employees looking to form a union are advised to read The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in its entirety, several sections can be prioritized over others. Section 7 of the NLRA discusses in detail the rights granted to employees within unions, such as “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist a labor organization, to bargain collectively through representation of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Furthermore, section 7 also addresses the right of employees to “refrain from any and all activities.” In other words, an employee cannot legally be pressured by a coworker into joining or forming a labor union. However, it is far more common for employers to attempt to stop workers from union formation or other concerted and protected activities.
According to Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA, “to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7” are identified as unfair labor practices. It is common for employers looking to stop the formation or activities of a union to instruct managers to tell employees that there may be mass layoffs resulting from a union forming. Other tactics have included anti-union banners, video ads, and posters within the workplace, asking supervisors to discuss with each employee their views on unions, and requiring employees’ attendance at daily anti-union meetings. These actions are in direct violation of Section 8(a)(1) and should be immediately reported to the union organizing committee or a to other union representatives.
It is essential that workers document any and all cases of employer interference and contact a labor attorney as soon as possible.