Employers Must Allow Employees to Exercise Their Organizing Rights

It is important for employers to understand their obligations and responsibilities under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The preamble to the NLRA establishes that it is the policy of the U.S. government to encourage the practice and procedure of collective bargaining. Consistent with that policy, Section 7 of the NLRA gives employees certain rights, and under Section 8(a), it is an unfair labor practice for an employer to interfere with those rights. For example, employers may not interfere with employees or take adverse action against them when they try to exercise any of their rights under the NLRA, including engaging in group action to address their working conditions or trying to form a union. Once employees have unionized, employers must bargain with the union in good faith about terms and conditions of employment.

In addition, employees who are not represented by a union also have rights under the NLRA. Specifically, the NLRA protects the rights of employees to engage in “protected concerted activity,” which is when two or more employees take action for their mutual aid or protection regarding terms and conditions of employment. Individual employees may also engage in protected concerted activity if they are acting on the authority of other employees, bringing group complaints to the employer’s attention, trying to initiate or induce group action, or seeking to prepare for group action.

Note to Employees: If you or your colleagues are wondering about how to start a union, want to learn strategies for organizing, or want to learn how to fight for workplace justice, be sure to attend the session entitled: Doing the Work: Unions, Coalitions, and Front-line Library Workers. The ALA-APA Salaries and Status of Library Workers (SSLW) committee will host this lively discussion on Sunday, June 25, 2023, 2:30 – 3:30 p.m., during the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. You’re welcome to join library workers from across the nation in a discussion on their fight for fair wages and treatment through unionization, organizing, and coalition building. Bring your questions and come prepared to learn how to take action in your workplace.

Panelists include:

Alexis Ahiagbe, Director of Volunteer Services at the Free Library of Philadelphia and a delegate and trustee in AFSCME District Council 47 Local 2186

Elissa C. Cadillic, Training Coordinator and President of AFSCME 1526, Boston Public Library Employees Union

Angela M. Jones, a Social Worker who coordinates opportunities for families at Skokie Public Library. She was a member of the organizing committee for the Skokie public library union (SEIU Local 73), and a member of the bargaining committee who successfully negotiated the library union’s first contract.

Meredith Kahn, a Librarian at the University of Michigan and an elected leader of a bargaining unit for librarians, archivists, and curators. They are a founding member of their union’s organizing committee and served on the bargaining team for their union’s first contract.

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