Employer Restrictions and Rights in Unionizing Process & Collective Bargaining

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  • 0:02 Employer Rights & Unionization
  • 0:39 Unionization: Employer Rights
  • 1:59 Unionization: Employer…
  • 3:09 Collective Bargaining:…
  • 4:51 Collective Bargaining:…
  • 5:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
Employees and employers have rights during unionization attempts and during the collective bargaining process. In this lesson, you'll learn about the rights of employers, as well as the restrictions to which they are subject, during these processes.

Employer Rights & Unionization

Beth is the vice president of human resources for a manufacturing company in northern Ohio. Certain employees at the company are seeking to bring in a union. The National Labor Relations Board, which enforces the National Labor Relations Act and conducts elections for unionization, has set a time for an election so that the company's employees can decide whether to have union representation. Beth has been given marching orders to try to resist the unionization effort to the fullest extent permitted by law. Let's see what Beth can and cannot do.

Unionization: Employer Rights

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) governs union organizations and activities. While the Act restricts the techniques Beth can employ to try to convince her employees not to unionize, the law also gives some important rights to Beth's employer:

  • Beth and her employer have the freedom to speak with employees about the company's positions and feelings towards unions. The communication should be informational only - not an order or threat. Beth must be objective, accurate and honest in her communications with employees. For example, Beth may offer the company's opinion that unionization is not in the employee's best interest and offer objective, accurate and honest information that she believes supports the opinion. An example of objective information may be unbiased and credible data on wages in the local community for unionized companies and non-union companies.
  • Beth can lawfully prevent union organizers from coming on company property.
  • She can also prohibit workers from engaging in unionization activities during paid working hours. However, she cannot prohibit such activities during paid breaks - that's the employee's time, not the company's time.

Unionization: Employer Restrictions

Private sector employees generally have a legal right to bring a union in to represent them in negotiations with their employer. The NLRA prohibits certain employer behavior to ensure that employees are free to choose whether to unionize or not. Let's see what Beth cannot do:

  • She cannot threaten employees with loss of jobs, wages or benefits.
  • She cannot threaten to close the factory down.
  • She cannot promise benefits or other perks to employees to encourage them to oppose unionization.
  • She cannot interrogate or question employees about their position regarding unionization.
  • She cannot subject an employee to any adverse employment action because the employee engaged in a protected concerted activity. Adverse employment actions include things such as terminating, laying off, transferring, assignment to more difficult work and other forms of punishment. A protected concerted activity is an activity an employee may engage in without being afraid of employer retaliation. Attempting to organize is a protected concerted activity.

Collective Bargaining: Employer Rights

Beth's employer lost. The employees voted to form a collective bargaining unit and have a union represent them through the collective bargaining process. A collective bargaining unit is a group of employees who bargain about the terms and conditions of employment with an employer as a group instead of individually. Bargaining with an employer as a unit is called collective bargaining. Let's see what rights Beth has when negotiating with the union:

  • She does not have to negotiate over permissive subjects of bargaining. These are matters that don't directly relate to an employee's job. For example, the union may want management to present more labor-friendly board member candidates to the shareholders during director elections, but since this is not directly related to employment, Beth can refuse to negotiate over it.
  • She can play hardball to pressure concessions at the bargaining table as permitted by labor law. For example, Beth can have the company start a lockout, which is stopping production so workers can't work and make a living.
  • She can also hire replacement workers to work if employees strike. If employees are striking over economic issues, such as better wages, she doesn't have to bring striking employees back until there's a vacancy.
  • She is not required to reach an agreement. If an impasse is reached, then the company can execute the last offer it presented to the union. Beth must be careful in exercising this right. The union can disagree that a true impasse has been reached and can file a charge of unfair labor practice with the NLRB, which will determine whether an impasse has been reached.

Collective Bargaining: Employer Obligations

Beth is subject to certain duties when engaged in collective bargaining. Let's look at the important ones:

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