Membership in a labor union is frowned upon by most employers since it allows employees to exert more power over the companies they work for than they could if acting alone. As a union member, or an employee who wants to join one, you have a number of legal rights that employers, as well as union leaders, must respect in order to avoid costly lawsuits.
You Have the Right to Join a Labor Union
If you decide to join a labor union, federal law protects your right to do so regardless of which employer you work for and regardless of whether your employer consents. Once you join, federal law also prohibits union leaders from discriminating against you because of your race, religion, age, gender, national origin, or disability.
In Some States, You Have the Right to NOT Join a Labor Union
When you accept a job at a unionized company, you can be automatically enrolled in the union, with union dues and fees taken out of your paycheck. In about half of the states, right-to-work laws allow employees to opt out of union membership.
Employers Can't Discriminate Against You for Joining a Union
Although most employers don't like unions, the law forbids them from interfering with your right to join a union. Under no circumstances can your employer fire you or intimidate you for joining a union. It's also a violation of your rights for your employers to encourage non-union employees to pressure you and other union members. This constitutes an illegal and unfair labor practice for which you, or your union, can sue your employer.
Employers Must Negotiate With Unions
One of the main reasons for joining a union is so that you and other members can collectively bargain with your employer on important issues such as wage increases, improvements in working conditions, and working hours. Federal law requires your employer to negotiate in good faith with your union's representatives.
The Law Protects Union Members' Right to Strike
If your union is unable to reach an agreement with your employer on issues like wages or paid time off, you and other union members can stop working and go on strike as a negotiating tool. You cannot be charged with a crime or be sued by your employer for striking.
A Labor and Employment Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding labor unions is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. We hope you found it useful. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a labor and employment lawyer.