Can I Be Fired for Joining or Forming a Union? Know Your Legal Rights

Let’s admit it. A huge pay slip attracts us when hunting for a job. But other aspects can contribute to job satisfaction, including benefits, working hours, safety, opportunities for growth, etc. A high wage doesn’t always guarantee happiness in the workplace.

What if you’re working too hard, but your efforts are not valued? Whether you are a warehouse guard, a teacher, or a policeman, you need a voice in your workplace. Is a labor union the answer?

What Exactly Is a Labor Union?

Simply put, a labor union is an organized group of workers who unite and engage in collective bargaining with their employers. They negotiate their concerns about their compensation, benefits, safety in their workplace, working hours, and holiday and leave. If they succeed, their employers concede to their demands. Otherwise, it can lead to strikes or work stoppages. 

Unions function like democracies. They hold elections to select officers who can make decisions and represent them during the negotiations. Though unions are not free and can cause conflicts with your employer, they set wage standards and workplace protections. If you become unionized, here are some of the benefits you can get:

  • Unions will protect your rights to work.
  • Unions will help you defend your rights.
  • Unions ensure that you will have better retirement opportunities.
  • Unions can increase your negotiation power against your employer.
  • Unions can help you earn more.

Who Can Join Labor Unions?

In the US, anybody can join or organize a union except those who are tasked with managing other employees. People making major decisions in the company with their own judgment are also not allowed since they’re a part of the organization’s bargaining power, not employees. 

Others include:

  • Confidential employees
  • Employed by parents or spouse
  • Domestic workers
  • Agricultural workers
  • Contractors
  • Railway workers

In 2020, public sector unions had an increase in their members as opposed to the private sectors. They’re usually city employees, servicemen, police, and teachers. Most of them are older, male, and locals from the Midwest, Northeaster, and California.

Is It Legal to Form or Join a Labor Union?

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935, Section 7, says that you have a right to join or form a labor union in your workplace. You can also assist labor organizations of your choice. Your right includes performing the following activities:

  • Attending union meetings
  • Wearing union buttons
  • Filling out an authorization card
  • Inviting others to fill out cards
  • Talking about the union with other workers
  • Handing out union literature

Can I Get Fired for Joining or Forming a Union?

If you fear that your employer will fire or punish you for joining or forming a union, the NLRA, Section 8, protects you. They cannot threaten, harass, transfer, or reassign you to other workplaces. Also, they cannot shut down the worksite or get rid of the benefits and privileges of employees who support unions.

Moreover, they cannot favor employees who don’t join a union over those who do, like you. For instance, they can’t promise promotions, higher wages, special favors, and other benefits to those who oppose it.

Enforcing Your Rights

Building a solid organization in your workplace is the best way to encourage your employer to recognize your hard work and negotiate a fair working contract. Keep in mind that you are protected by the law when it comes to joining or organizing a labor union. If they violate your rights, you can file unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board.


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