Trade unions or labor unions have been an integral part in the protection of employee rights through a collective bargaining agreement or CBA with the employers.
A collective bargaining agreement is a labor contract between the employer and the union. It defines the conditions of employment such as wage, hours of work and grievance procedures.
In turn, it also discusses the responsibilities of the employee and the union towards the employers.
Aside from the collective bargaining agreement, trade and labor unions have other objectives and purposes as well. Trade unions are also involved in:
• Provisions of benefits for members – Some employee benefits that can be availed through the provision of professional training, legal advice and representation for members in case of conflict with employers.
• Industrial actions – Trade unions may enforce a strike or a resistance to lockouts to further particular goals of the union.
• Political activities – Trade unions may also be active in endorsing certain legislations that would be beneficial to the union. For this, the union may pursue campaigns, lobby for a law or financially support a certain party or candidate who is running for public office.
Trade unions and collective bargaining agreements are protected under the National Labor Relations Act.
The National Labor Relations Act or the Wagner Act (NLRA) limits the powers of the employer to react to employees in the private sector that organize and join labor unions, engage in collective bargaining agreement, perform strikes or other activities in support of their demands.
Under the National Labor Relations Act, the following acts of an employer would constitute as unfair labor practices:
• Interfering, restraining or coercing employees from their rights that include freedom of association, mutual aid or protection, self-organization, to form, join and assist labor organizations and to engage in collective bargaining agreement talks to discuss conditions of employment through a representative of their own choice.
• Assisting and/ or dominating a labor organization.
• Discriminating an employee for the purpose of discouraging support for a labor organization.
• Discrimination against an employee who filed charges or testified against an employer.
• Refusing to engage in a collective bargaining discussion with the representative of the trade or labor union.
The key principle of the National Labor Relations Act is summarized on the last paragraph of its first section which states:
“Encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining and by protecting the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing, for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid or protection”
The National Labor Relations Act is being enforced by the National Labor Relations Board.
The National Labor Relations Board oversees the process by which employees choose to be represented through a labor union and is initiated in one of its regional offices.
And lastly, the National Labor Relations Board is also tasked to prosecute those who violate any of the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act.
By: Mark Dacanay
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