What is the NLRA?
The National Labor Relations Board is the federal agency tasked with enforcing the NLRA. Put simply, the Act prohibits certain employers from engaging in unfair labor practices.
Does my workplace have to be unionized for me to be protected under the NRLA?
The Act applies to most private sector employers. It expressly does not apply to federal, state, or local governments; employers who employ only agricultural workers; and employers subject to the Railway Labor Act, nor does it apply to independent contractors or supervisors (subject to certain exceptions).
Because employees of non-unionized workplaces are still protected by the Act, this means they are equally protected in sharing information, signing petitions, and seeking to improve terms and conditions of their employment.
Under certain conditions, and to varying degrees, employees are also able to strike and picket.
How does the NLRA protect employees?
Specifically, Section 7 of the NLRA guarantees employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection,” as well as the right “to refrain from any or all such activities.”
Section 8(a)(1) of the Act makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer “to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7” of the Act. For example, employers may not threaten employees with adverse consequences if they support a union or engage in protected, concerted activity; promise employees benefits if they reject the union; coercively question employees about their own or coworkers’ union activities or sympathies; etc.
What do I do if I believe my employer has violated the NLRA?
The charge is then investigated by Board agents who gather evidence and may take affidavits from parties and witnesses before submitting their findings to the Regional Director or NLRB attorneys at the Division of Advice in Washington, D.C.
In certain circumstances, the Regional Director may petition the appropriate U.S. District Court for temporary injunction orders to restore the status quo. Critically, it is illegal for your employer to fire, demote, harass, or otherwise retaliate against you for reporting an issue or filing a charge with the NLRB.
Employees may also file a grievance pursuant to an established grievance and arbitration procedure contained within the parties’ collective bargaining agreement, but whether an employee can file both a charge with the NLRB and a grievance, and which one supersedes the other, is a nuanced issue that can present many complications for employees.