Executive Director’s Message: May 2018

In an attempt to put forth as much information as possible to EAA members I have asked our Communications Director to add new features to the web page:

  • Executive Director’s Message
  • Labor Reps’ Corner (On a rotating basis)
  • Meet your Union Steward
  • Members’ Stories – What EAA Did For Me!

This month’s message is the first in a series of messages that discuss the history of the Labor movement.

Have you ever asked yourself, why unionize? The answer is relatively simple, workers were faced with many difficulties in the work place such as unsanitary working conditions, long hours, unsafe working conditions, low pay, injury on the job resulting in dismissal with no income and to make matters worse child labor.

Unions didn’t just crop up overnight; it took a long tedious fight with failures along the way, the trailblazer in unionization that remains today is the American Federation of Labor (AFL), founded in 1886 by Samuel Gompers.

In the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s Unions failed due to government intervention with government lending their support to business rather than the worker.

The tide turned in 1935 with the establishment of the National Labor Relations Act (Act) also know as the Wagner Act (after New York Senator Robert F. Wagner) that set forth the foundational labor law statute for the country guaranteeing that private sector employees had the right to organize and engage in the collective bargaining process for better working conditions and other terms of employment including the right to strike. However, the Act did not apply to federal, state, or local government workers.

Under Section 1 of the Act the key principle is to correct the inequality of bargaining power between “employees who do not possess full freedom of association or actual liberty of contract and employers who are organized in the corporate or other forms of ownership association”

Inequity of bargaining in law, economics and social sciences is defined as “one party to negotiations, contract or agreement, has more and better alternatives than the other party.” As a result one party has greater “power” than the other as to whether or not they choose to make or take a deal. This results in the likelihood that such party will more likely than not have the upper hand and gain more favorable results.

To balance out the inequity of bargaining the National Relations Act established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with its primary responsibility being the enforcement of the Act. The NLRB’s basic function is overseeing the process by which employees decide whether to be represented by a labor organization and prosecuting violations of the Act. The NLRB is tasked with preventing Unfair Labor Practices (UERP) from occurring with the ability to conduct investigations, take testimony, obtain evidence, issue subpoenas and the like; all subject to review by the courts.

There are five Unfair Labor Practice charges that can be committed by the employers:

  1. To interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in section 7. This includes freedom of association, mutual aid or protection, self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively for wages and working conditions through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other protected concerted activities with or without a union.
  2. To dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it.
  3. To discriminate in regard to hire or tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization.
  4. Discrimination against and employees who file charges or testify
  5. To refuse to bargain collectively with the representative of the employer’s employees.

 Last but not least the Act states that employees have the right to elect their exclusive representatives to engage in collective bargaining with their employer on their behalf.