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You are Here: Home > Unions > Unfair Labor Practices

Unfair Labor Practices

This Unfair Labor Practices summation is primarily for private-sector workers. However, the information might differ somewhat for certain private-sector workers, such as airline and railroad workers. It might also differ somewhat for public-sector workers. Regardless, resources for most workers are included below.

Unfair labor practices in the private sector are essentially employer or union violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

The NLRA is the "main" Federal labor law that regulates union and employer relations in the private sector. Under the NLRA, private-sector workers have the right to:

  • Form or join a union
  • Assist a union in organizing employees
  • Participate in protected union activities
  • Strike for better wages or working conditions
  • Resign union membership at anytime
  • Refrain from joining a union or participating in its activities

Union-security agreements may require nonmembers to pay dues for their share of union representation, unless such agreements are illegal under state right to work laws.

In other words, unfair labor practices are any union or employer acts that restrain or otherwise interfere with workers' union rights under the NLRA. Examples of unfair labor practices are listed below.

  • Coercing workers not to join unions or not to engage in protected concerted activities (legit, collaborative, union-related activities), with threats of job loss or benefit deprivation
  • Threatening plant closure if workers choose to join or form a union
  • Questioning workers about their union sympathies or activities in an intimidating way
  • Promising extras to workers to influence their union support
  • Assigning difficult or dangerous work duties to discourage participation in union activities
  • Refusing to process grievances of workers who've criticized the union or its officials
  • Firing or otherwise punishing workers for resigning union membership
  • Coercing workers to quit (constructive discharge) because of their legit union activities

The equivalent Federal labor law for Federal government workers is the Civil Service Reform Act, while it's the Railway Labor Act (RLA) for railroad and airline workers. For state and local public-sector workers, unfair labor practices are regulated by equivalent laws that vary by state and municipality, such as state right to work laws.

If an employer or union has violated any aspect of your right to work under the NLRA and if you're a private-sector worker not regulated by the RLA, you may file an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB is a Federal government agency that enforces the NLRA. Neither your union nor your employer may rightfully retaliate against you, for filing an unfair labor practice charge or consulting an attorney about same.

The NLRB receives of thousands of unfair labor practices charges annually. Consequently, it might focus only on your personal interests that are also for the good of all workers. However, you're entitled to hire an attorney to represent all of your appropriate, personal interests. You might also be entitled to collect attorneys' fees, court costs and damages.

Because the NLRB finds merit in only about one-third of the of unfair labor practices charges it receives, consulting an attorney prior to filing a charge might be a good idea. An attorney will help you to file a more-compelling charge in legalese, to increase your chances that the NLRB will see merit in your charge and act on your behalf. An attorney will likely also tell you if it might be a better idea to instead take legal action under a state labor law, such as a right to work law.

Either way, don't delay for long. At this writing, a six-month statute of limitations applies for taking legal action under the NLRA. A similar statute of limitations likely applies for taking legal action under a state labor law.

To discover more about your rights and avenues of relief for unfair labor practices, start by browsing the Web sites of the National Labor Relations Board and National Right to Work Committee. The relevant state labor department might also provide such resources.

Below are additional resources for the workers specified.

  • Federal workers may research their union rights and avenues of relief for unfair labor practices, starting at the Web site of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) or Office of Labor-Management Standards.
  • State and local public-sector workers may research same, by contacting the nearest NLRB regional office for free referrals to relevant state and local government agencies, such as state labor departments.
  • Railroad and airline workers may research same, starting at the National Mediation Board (NMB). However, equivalent violations of the RLA might not be called unfair labor practices, as the term is not used in the Act. Worker complaints of RLA violations are typically addressed by employers or unions, depending on who is alleged to have violated the RLA. But workers may hire attorneys to address RLA violations in the courts.

Workers might also try browsing the Web sites of their unions and employers, for information about union rights and avenues of relief for unfair labor practices.

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