18. What is the “National Labor Relations Act”?
The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA), also known as the Wagner Act, was passed in 1935 to strengthen the protections afforded private-sector employees to organize or bargain collectively. The fundamental premise behind the Norris-LaGuardia Act was to allow employers and labor organizations to work out their disputes through negotiation and existing legal channels. The NLRA adopted the principle that organized labor groups could not successfully protect its interest in conflicts with employers without additional government protections. The major provisions of the NLRA protecting labor are as follows:
• Section 7: “Employees shall have 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.” Under this provision, an employee is allowed to undertake a boycott if:
⁃ there is a labor dispute between employees and employer that is made public, and
⁃ the boycott does not disparage the employer’s product or service.
• Section 8(a): Provides numerous limitations on an employer’s ability to thwart collective bargaining or worker organization efforts. The relevant subsections are as follows:
⁃ Subsection (1) prohibits a number of practices by employers designed to interfere with employees exercising their Section 7 rights.
⁃ Subsection (2) prohibits companies from forming unions among themselves.
⁃ Subsection (3) prohibits an employer from discriminating against employees for taking part in Section 7 protected activity.
⁃ Subsection (5) prohibits an employer from refusing to recognize and negotiate through an organized group’s duly appointed representative.
The provisions of the NLRA are administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Employees alleging that their rights under the NLRA are violated by their employer may file an action with the NLRB within 6 months of the violation. Unions may file complaints pursuant to section 8(a)(5). The complaint must explain the alleged discriminatory conduct and how it violates rights protected by the NLRA. If the NLRB believes there is a violation, it will issue a complaint against the employer. The matter will then go before an administrative law judge for resolution.
• Discussion: What do you think the Federal Government was attempting to accomplish in passing the NLRA? Why do you think the NLRA vested regulatory authority to oversee the Act in the NLRB? What do you think is the significance of the specific employer activity prohibited under the NLRA?
• Practice Question: ABC Corp is a large corporation with lots of employees. In recent months, there has been lots of rumors that a significant number of employees are disgruntled with work condition and are considering forming a union. ABC wants to fight the unionization of the employees for a number of reasons. ABC asks your advice on what conduct is prohibited in attempting to dissuade unionization. Can you explain to ABC the prohibited practices?