The NLRA (or Wagner Act of 1935) protects the rights of employees to:

  • Form or join a union
  • Bargain collectively for a contract that sets wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions
  • Discuss wages, working conditions or union organizing with co-workers or a union
  • Act with co-workers to improve working conditions by raising complaints with an employer or a government agency
  • Strike and picket their employer, depending on the purpose or means of the action
  • Choose not to join a union or engage in union activities
  • Organize coworkers to decertify a union
    If employees choose a union as their bargaining representative, the union and employer must bargain in good faith in a genuine effort to reach a binding agreement setting out terms and conditions of employment. The union is required to fairly represent employees in bargaining and enforcing the agreement.

Employers may not:

  • Prohibit employees from discussing a union during non-work time, or from distributing union literature during non-work time in non-work areas, such as parking lots or break rooms
  • Question employees about their union support or activities in a manner that discourages them from engaging in that activity
  • Fire, demote, transfer, reduce hours or take other adverse action against employees who join or support a union or act with co-workers for mutual aid and protection, or who refuse to engage in such activity
  • Threaten to close their workplace if employees form or join a union
  • Promise or grant promotions, pay raises, or other benefits to discourage or encourage union support
  • Prohibit employees from wearing union hats, buttons, t-shirts, and pins in the workplace except under special circumstances
  • Spy on or videotape peaceful union activities and gatherings

Unions may not:

  • Threaten employees with job loss if they don’t support the union
  • Refuse to process grievances of employees who criticize union officials or do not join the union
  • Act in a discriminatory way when making job referrals from a hiring hall
  • Cause or attempt to cause an employer to discriminate against employees because of their union-related activity
  • Take other adverse action against employees who do not support the union

The NLRA applies to employees in most private-sector workplaces, including manufacturing plants, retail centers, private universities, and health care facilities. Agricultural workers and domestic workers were excluded in the original law and are not covered. Also exempted are supervisors and independent contractors. The organizing and collective bargaining rights of railway and airline employees are protected by the National Mediation Board, not the NLRB.

The Act does not cover federal, state or local government workers, with the exception of employees of the U.S. Postal Service. The Federal Labor Relations Authority has jurisdiction over federal employees. The organizing and collective bargaining rights of state and local employees are determined by state laws enforced by individual state agencies.

For more information regarding the NLRA, visit the National Labor Relations Board FAQ Page.
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