Rights of Union Members
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 1935
The NLRA was created to protect the rights of private sector employees and employers, encourage collective bargaining, and reduce private sector labor and management practices that were seen to potentially harm workers, businesses and the US economy. The NLRA states that union members have:
- the right to self organization, and designation of representatives of you and your coworkers’ own choosing, for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of your employment or other mutual aid or protection. Section 1.
- the right to bargain collectively with your employer through a representative that you and your coworkers choose. Section 7.
- the right to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection. This includes use of social media. Section 7.
- Weingarten Rights. Employees in unionized workplaces have the right to union representation during any management inquiry that could reasonably result in discipline. Section 7. Affirmed by the US Supreme Court in NLRB v. J. Weingarten, Inc. (1975).
- the right to strike and picket. Sections 7 and 13.
- the right to be represented by your union fairly, in good faith, and without discrimination. Section 8 (b) (1) (A).
- the right to decertify your union when you don’t like yours (i.e. OPEIU) and/or want to switch to another one. Section 9.
The NLRA also discusses union dues in Section 8 (a) (3). The amount of dues collected from employees represented by unions is subject to federal and state laws and court rulings. The NLRA allows unions and employers to enter into union-security agreements which require the payment of dues or dues equivalents as a condition of employment.
- Individuals with religious convictions may choose not to pay union dues. Instead, they can donate an amount, equal to union dues, to a non-religious, non-labor organization. Section 19.
- Beck objectors. A union member may choose to pay the portion of union dues used for collective bargaining and other representational activities only. The union member would not pay the portion of dues used for political activities would be excluded. Decided by the Supreme Court in Communications Workers of America v. Beck (1988).
The LMRDA applies to union members, employers, labor relations consultants, and other persons, as well as to labor organizations (unions) and surety companies. Title I of the LMRDA sets forth basic rights that Congress believes should be guaranteed to union members by federal law. These include:
- equal rights to participate in union activities
- freedom of speech and assembly
- voice in setting rates of dues, fees, and assessments
- protection of the right to sue
- safeguards against improper discipline
- access to one’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)
- the right to be informed about the LMRDA
- access to reports, and the information that informs those reports: the union’s constitution and bylaws, and the LM-1 (initial information report) and LM-2 (annual financial report). All of these are public information and copies are available at the US Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards’ Online Public Disclosure Room.
What do union dues pay for?
Union dues support the following activities:
- Negotiation expenses
- Arbitration expenses
- Legal expenses
- Education programs
- Organizing expenses
- Member death benefits
- Defense (Strike) fund
- Staff and office expenses
- Printing and postage
- Affiliation fees