Labor Law

Overview

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) seeks to promote industrial peace by requiring employers and labor organizations to bargain in good faith and by assuring that employees may organize and collectively bargain through representatives of their own choosing. The NLRA protects employees who form, join or assist a union, as well as those who engage in concerted activities, such as striking, for collective bargaining purposes or to provide mutual aid to other labor organizations.

Unfair Labor Practices

To protect such activities, the NLRA bars employers and labor unions from engaging in unfair labor practices. Thus, employers may not interfere with, restrain or coerce employees who are exercising their right to self-organization, such as by threatening employees with loss of jobs or benefits, threatening to close the workplace, or transferring, laying off, terminating or reassigning employees to more difficult tasks if they join a union, vote for a union or engage in protected concerted activity. Employers also may not dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of a labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it.

While the NLRA protects employees who engage in union activities, it also protects employees who refrain from union activities. Accordingly, the NLRA bars labor organizations from coercing employees to join a union or influencing an employer to discriminate against non-union employees.

Federal and State Labor Laws

The NLRA does not apply to all employers. Specifically, U.S. Code, Title 29, Section 152 excludes the United States and airlines and railways from its coverage. Instead, the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Act (29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169) governs labor relations between federal agencies and their employees. Likewise, the Railway Labor Act (45 U.S.C. § 151) regulates labor relations between railways, airlines and labor organizations.

The Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1932 is another federal statute that protect the rights of workers to organize and participate in unions. This law restricts the federal judiciary's ability to administer injunctions against unions involved in strikes and other bargaining techniques.

State laws may also regulate labor relations, and but federal labor laws takes precedence over state labor laws. (See, San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon, 359 US 236 (1959) and Old Dominion Branch No. 496 v. Austin, 418 US 264 (1973)).

Trade Unions

Trade unions play a major role in labor relations. Trade unions, or worker's organizations, consist of employees who have organized themselves to collectively bargain with employers for better wages or working conditions. Each trade union maintains a unique internal structure and form of governance. Trade unions utilize a variety of methods to advocate for more rights, such as by organizing a strike. Strikes involve a group of workers agreeing to abstain from work in order to pressure an employer during negotiations. Trade unions may also choose to picket their employer by gathering outside and voicing their concerns. Pickets help raise awareness about the trade unions' issues and may influence others to join their cause. Pickets also may have an economic impact on the business being picketed by dissuading consumers from entering the establishment.