Monday, January 26, 2009

Labor Unions

Many workers are members of labor unions. A labor union is an organization of workers, usually working for the same employer at the same workplace. Labor unions try to get a "collective" contract for their workers.

The laws governing labor unions are very complicated. Therefore, if you are faced with a union "organizing" drive at your workplace, you should contact a labor lawyer immediately to make sure that your response to the organizing drive is legal.

• What is a "union contract"?
• Are non-union workers covered?
• Do I have to provide employees with a copy of the contract?
• Will the union contract limit my right to fire an employee?
• What is a "grievance"?

What is a "union contract"?

If your employees belong to a labor union, they probably already made a "union contract" - also called a "collective bargaining agreement" - with you. That contract covers wages, working conditions, and procedures for complaining about problems on the job.

Are non-union workers covered?

It's possible, because most unions bargain for a contract that represents all of the other employees at the workplace - whether or not they are actually members of the union. If a worker is covered by a union contract but is not a member of the union, it is possible that the worker will still have to pay the union a fee for negotiating the contract.

Do I have to provide employees with a copy of the contract?

It depends. Usually the terms of the contract cover your obligation to provide a copy of the contract to the employees. Often, you are supposed to provide the employee with at least one copy of the contract.

Will the union contract limit my right to fire an employee?

Probably. Union contracts usually provide that workers can't be fired, suspended, or disciplined without "good cause." That rule is usually found in a section of the contract titled "Grievance Procedure" or "Discipline."

If an employee thinks you didn't have "good cause" to fire or discipline, he or she generally contacts the union. The union may decide to file a "grievance" for the worker against you. If the union files a grievance against you, you should see an attorney who specializes in labor law, who should help you decide how to defend against the grievance. If you have questions about labor unions, contact a business lawyer near you.

Henry Dahut is an attorney and marketing strategist who works with some of the largest law firms in the world. He is the author of the best selling practice development book, "Marketing The Legal Mind" and offers consulting services in the area of strategic branding and law firm marketing. Henry is also the founder of the legal online help-portal - the award winning site that helps people through serious legal and financial trouble.

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