Did You Know That You Can Use ‘Concerted Action’ in the Workplace to Address a Grievance with Management?

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center often advises workers who feel that there need to be improvements made in their workplace (be it improvements in pay, hours, safety, workload, or other terms of employment) that they can act in ‘concert’ with each other to bring about change in their workplace. (In addition, the action of a single employee may be considered ‘concerted’ if s/he involves co-workers before acting, or acts on behalf of others).

Now the National Labor Relations Board has created an excellent new website www.nlrb.gov/concerted-activity to help us know what constitutes such ‘concerted action’.

If you know of a worker/s who would like advice on how to act in ‘concert’ with other workers (or if you are such a worker yourself!), please feel free to contact the Workers Rights Hotline at 607-269-0409 or send an email to TCWRH@tcworkerscenter.org. All such inquiries are kept strictly confidential.

June 18, 2012
Office of Public Affairs

The National Labor Relations Board today made public a webpage that describes the rights of employees to act together for their mutual aid and protection, even if they are not in a union.

The page, at www.nlrb.gov/concerted-activity, tells the stories of more than a dozen recent cases involving protected concerted activity, which can be viewed by clicking points on a map. Among the cases: A construction crew fired after refusing to work in the rain near exposed electrical wires; a customer service representative who lost her job after discussing her wages with a coworker; an engineer at a vegetable packing plant fired after reporting safety concerns affecting other employees; a paramedic fired after posting work-related grievances on Facebook; and poultry workers fired after discussing their grievances with a newspaper reporter.

Some cases were quickly settled after charges were filed, while others progressed to a Board decision or to federal appellate courts. They were selected to show a variety of situations, but they have in common a finding at some point in the NLRB process that the activity that the employees undertook was protected under federal labor law.

The right to engage in certain types of concerted activity was written into the original 1935 National Labor Relations Act’s Section 7, which states that: “Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all such activities.”

That right has been upheld in numerous decisions by appellate courts and by the U.S. Supreme Court over the years. Non-union concerted activity accounts for more than 5% of the agency’s recent caseload.

“A right only has value when people know it exists,” said NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce. “We think the right to engage in protected concerted activity is one of the best kept secrets of the National Labor Relations Act, and more important than ever in these difficult economic times. Our hope is that other workers will see themselves in the cases we’ve selected and understand that they do have strength in numbers.”