How the NLRA Can Help You Stay Union-Free

Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) in 1935 to “protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.” As an employer, you may want to shy away from training on the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), because you want to remain union-free, but that’s generally a bad idea. Not only do your employees have a right to know this information, but exemplifying honesty and transparency (and overall authentic leadership) will create an environment where unions simply aren’t necessary.

Helping employees understand their rights under the NLRA can actually help you remain union-free, and establish trust between employees and leadership. This, in turn, builds a stronger workplace culture and improves employee engagement and retention. We’ll cover some of the basics about the rights your employees have under the NLRA, but also share the rights that employers have when it comes to union organizing activities as well.


Communicate With Your Employees

Union organizers love to throw around the idea that forming a union is a right protected by the National Labor Relations Act – which is, of course, completely true. But a strong, union-proof workforce also knows that the law also protects their right to NOT form a union. By educating employees on this one simple fact, you can simply and elegantly support employee efforts to remain union-free. For a more in-depth breakdown of employee rights during union organizing, click here. It’s also important to remind your employees of some of the common misconceptions surrounding union organizing. Often, when union organizers make promises to your employees, like safe working conditions and fair wages, they are insinuating that they are not already entitled to such things. However, these are legal rights your employees already have.

It’s essential you maintain an open-door policy in your workplace so that employees know they can express concerns and potential grievances, ask questions, and know that their voices are being heard. Lack of communication can lead to your team members succumbing to union organizing pressure, so that they can finally feel “heard” — when you can take proactive steps to lessen the likelihood that employees feel they need a union in the first place.

Employee Rights Under the NLRA

As powerful as that idea is, diminishing your NLRA training’s impact to just that would be short-sighted.  The NLRA discussion is important for a variety of reasons. All your workers have employee rights under the NLRA, and they deserve to know what those rights are. By informing employees of their rights yourself, you create an open dialogue and level of trust with your employees that they wouldn’t ordinarily have. By helping them understand their rights, you’re showing them that you’re on their side, and genuinely have their best interests in mind. Plus, you’re letting them know that you aren’t scared of unions, though you can certainly let them know about your union-free views. To take additional preventative measures, you can find out if your workplace is already vulnerable to union organizing.

So, what rights do your employees have under the NLRA? For one, they can organize a union to discuss terms of employment, including wages. They are free to form a union, join an existing union or assist a union. They can bargain themselves or via representatives about hours, wages and other concerns. Additionally, employees may also strike or picket under certain conditions. Most importantly, they can also opt out of all of these activities. Under the NLRA’s Section 7 rights, it is illegal for either the employer or the union to threaten or harass employees for any reason. Your employees should know these rights and understand them. Of course, while your team members have rights, so do you. Both employees and employers have rights when it comes to union organizing. Here is a list of 30 things employers can do regarding unions.

Beyond a preventive approach, if you do receive a petition for an election from a union, you should immediately begin educating your employees about their rights under the NLRA. Because of newer “ambush election” laws, you may only have about two weeks to speak to your employees before a secret ballot election is held. This short period of time is the only opportunity you’ll have to speak to your employees about the effects of unionization, so use the time wisely.

employee rights under NLRA

Train and Empower Your Leaders

It’s not only overwhelming to understand and relay all the rights your employees have under the NRLA, but it can be difficult and time-consuming to educate yourself and your leaders to do so. This is why many companies seek expert help when developing employee communication systems and training programs. Labor law has become a very complex issue to manage without professional assistance, and this is why a Labor Relations professional within your organization is such an important resource.

If you’re worried about the possibility of a union, try talking to your employees about the NLRA. By starting a frank, honest discussion, they’ll see you as an ally, which will make your company – and your workforce – that much more union-proof. If you need more assistance when it comes to labor relations and leadership training, Projections and our partners at UnionProof would love to help you find a solution and protect both yourself and your employees.

About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is IRI's Director of Digital Solutions and the founder of UnionProof & A Better Leader. As the creator of Union Proof Certification, Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.

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