Rights on the Job

Your Rights on the Job:

In 1934, the government (in theory) recognized the right to join a labor organization of one's choosing. The National Labor Relations Act also addresses the right of workers who are in unions that are not recognized by the employer, and even gives concessions to workers that are in no union at all. Also, the employer is barred from using threats to disrupt organizing. Your rights on the job include:The right to join or assist in organizing any labor organization on the job;
  • The right to "engage in concerted activity", or act in a group of two or more, to protect your right to organize and win demands;
  • The right to talk union, and to hand out union literature in non working areas off the clock;
  • The right to not discuss any of these activities with your employer.
Your boss, supervisor, or manager may not:
  • Spy on you for organizing
  • Promise more pay or better conditions in exchange for not organizing or joining a union
  • Interrogate you on your union activities or sympathies
  • Threaten you because you support organizing or because you engage in "concerted activity" to protect your rights on the job.
The National Labor Relations Board is the government entity that is required to enforce these laws, and the process is slanted in favor of the employer. So the law by itself will not get your demands, but will provide at least a small avenue in some cases for more collective power. The law will not keep the boss from engaging in these actions mentioned above, but will offer a deterrent to some employers. Many labor laws are designed to limit your power, and it is wise to be at least familiar with the basics of the law when you organize, as a simple mistake may haunt you later. NEVER take legal advice from a National Labor Relations Board agent.

State laws may entitle you to damages for safety and injuries. Problems with discrimination because of race, sex, and many other things may also be remedied through state law. A union will minimize employer discrimination, especially if these issues are spelled out in a contract and enforced by collective action on the job.

Other protections come from laws regarding health and safety. OSHA, the federal administrative body that deals with workplace safety, may be used in certain situations to deal with safety issues; the knowledge that this may be used is often enough to make an employer realize that a safer workplace is the way to go. Your IWW delegate should be able to tell you how to get access to materials needed to deal with these issues and file complaints. It is illegal for employers to fire you for reporting safety violations.