Labor Law / Union Representation
Labor law refers to the body of federal and state laws that protect the rights of workers to organize and present collective proposals to their employers, including the formation of unions to engage in collective bargaining. These laws prohibit employers from disciplining or retaliating against employees who participate in activities like self-organization and union organizing, as well as “concerted activities” geared towards self-organization or union organizing.
Congress created a unique agency to handle labor law disputes. Collective bargaining agreements between unions and employers may also provide procedures for arbitration of disputes. The Louisville labor law attorneys at Charles W. Miller & Associates have extensive experience handling administrative labor law claims and union grievance arbitrations.
National Labor Relations Act
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), enacted by Congress in 1935, is the grandfather of employee rights laws in this country. Its protections for workers against discrimination and retaliation undoubtedly influenced later laws, like the Civil Rights Act. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was created to adjudicate claims of NLRA violations, with broad authority to interpret and enforce its provisions.
Employee Rights under the National Labor Relations Act
NLRA § 7 protects the rights of workers to self-organize, form or participate in labor unions, choose representatives to engage in collective bargaining, and participate in other concerted activities related to workers’ mutual interests or refrain from any such activities. NLRA § 8 defines unfair labor practices, including interference with workers’ free exercise of their § 7 rights, interference with the formation of a labor organization, and retaliation against a worker for reporting alleged violations to or testifying before the NLRB.
Union activities protected by NLRA § 7 may include attending union meetings, wearing buttons or other union insignia, soliciting union membership, acting as a union representative for another worker, filing a grievance under a union contract, and participating in a lawful picket or strike. Protected “concerted activities” are not always as easy to identify. They must involve action undertaken on behalf of a group of workers or with their authority, such as planning or initiating group action or bringing a matter of concern to the group to management’s attention.
Unfair Labor Practice Charges before the NLRB
The NLRB has exclusive jurisdiction over claims of unfair labor practices. Workers must file a complaint with a regional NLRB office within six months of the event in question. If the regional director concludes that the case has merit, an NLRB lawyer will prosecute the case before an administrative judge. NLRA claims supersede any other employment law claims, such as discrimination or harassment, so a claim for unfair labor practices forecloses the possibility of other state law claims for the same event. The remedies the NLRB may award are limited to awarding back pay and ordering reinstatement.
Arbitration of Labor Disputes
Many disputes between a worker and management may be resolved through a union’s grievance process. This process is usually established in a collective bargaining agreement, and allows for the arbitration of complaints. Grievance arbitration involves the resolution of disputes over breaches of a collective bargaining agreement. Interest arbitration addresses disputes over the terms and conditions of an agreement.
Dedicated Advocates for Employee Rights
The right of workers to bargain collectively with employers is protected by federal law. If your employer has subjected you to unlawful discrimination, retaliation, discipline, or termination, you should seek the assistance of an experienced Louisville labor law attorney who can help you assert your rights.
At Charles W. Miller & Associates, we have been representing our clients’ interests in union and labor law matters in Kentucky and Indiana since 2003.
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