The Houston Employment Law Blog - Find Houston Employment Lawyers

Organizing a Labor Union? 3 Legal Reminders

The federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) governs the rights and responsibilities of unions and private employers. Generally, it doesn't cover public employees, independent contractors, and a few other groups of workers.

But many people don't realize that portions of the NLRA apply to all workers.

Though this area of law can be complex and confusing for both employers and employees, here are three quick legal reminders for workers who are organizing:

1. You're Protected Under Section 7 of the NLRA.

Section 7 of the NLRA gives employees the right to form, join, or assist labor unions. It also allows employees to choose a representative to collectively bargain for them.

On the flip side, Section 7 generally protects the right of employees to refrain from participating in labor activities as well. So you can't force your coworkers to join in your efforts if they don't want to.

2. It's Important to Have Authorization Cards.

When an employee wants to allow a union to act on his or her behalf for collective bargaining, the employee needs to sign a legal document called an authorization card. Authorization cards are crucial for organizing a labor union. They're not just paperwork. Instead, authorization cards function as contracts that may ultimately require an employee to pay union dues.

Since unions typically need strength in numbers, authorization cards are also important because they rope in an employee to the union's constitution and bylaws.

3. Your Supervisor Must Refrain From 'TIPS.'

When employees are in a union organizing campaign, it's a protected concerted activity. As a result, a supervisor can't use "TIPS": Threats, Interrogations, Promises, or Surveillance.

When employees try to form a union, supervisors can't interfere with that process, which includes asking questions of lower-level employees about union activity.

They can't coerce employees to vote against a union. They also can't threaten or retaliate against them because of their participation.

Another big no-no for management is to promise or deny benefits or perks based on how employees vote in a union election.

Finally, supervisors can't use surveillance on lower-level employees to figure out where they stand on a union vote.

Keep in mind, however, that it is completely legal for supervisors to express facts, opinions, and give factual accounts of union experiences to lower-level employees.

Related Resources: