The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is charged with enforcing and regulating the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA is a federal law passed to protect the rights of employees, and employers, to join or assist a union, choose representatives to bargain with an employer on the employee’s behalf, and choose not to engage in any of these protected activities. The law essentially gives employers the right to act together to try to improve working conditions and pay, with or without a union. Further, the law prevents employers from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of their rights. However, the following employers are excluded from the NLRB’s jurisdiction:
· Federal, state and local governments, including public schools, libraries, and parks, Federal Reserve banks, and wholly-owned government corporations.
· Employers who employ only agricultural laborers, those engaged in farming operations that cultivate or harvest agricultural commodities or prepare commodities for delivery.
· Employers subject to the Railway Labor Act, such as interstate railroads and airlines.
· Anyone employed by any other person who is not an employer as defined in the NLRA.
Under the NLRA, employers may not discriminate, or retaliate, in regard to hire or tenure of employment to encourage or discourage membership to any labor organization. However, an employer may make an agreement with a labor organization to require as a condition of employment membership therein if such labor organization is the representative of the employees. Moreover, employers may not terminate employment or otherwise discriminate against an employee because he/she has filed charges or testifies under the NLRA. The NLRA intended to level the playing field of bargaining power between employees and employers. As such, an employer may not refuse to bargain collectively with the representatives of his/her employees either.
Section 7 of the NLRA also provides guidelines on the right to strike and picket. The lawfulness of a strike depends on the purpose. Lawful strikes fall into two categories: economic strikers and unfair labor practice strikes. Economic strikers strike for the purpose of obtaining from the employer some economic purpose such as higher wages, shorter hours, or better working conditions. Unfair labor practice strikers, as the name suggests, strike to protest an unfair labor practice committed by the employer. Further, it is important to note that despite a lawful strike purpose, strikes may become unlawful because of misconduct by the strikers such as physically blocking persons from entering or leaving a strike plant, threatening violence against non-striking employees, and attacking management representatives.
If employees are fired, suspended, or otherwise penalized for taking part in protected group activity, then a charge should be filed with the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board. After a charge is filed, the Regional Director investigates the charge and determines whether formal action should be taken. At the conclusion of the investigation, it is determined whether a complaint should be issued, or possibly an injunction. If a complaint is issued, the Respondent must file an answer in 14 days.
For more information or questions about the NLRB or NLRA, contact an RMN attorney today at lawyer@RMN-law.com or 412-626-5626.5