Employees Using Workers Councils To Air Grievances With NLRB

Date: September 08, 2015

Worker Committees Growing In Popularity As Unions Wane

As unions wane in popularity across the US due to a stronger economy and better working conditions, the New York Times reported on a less-traditional method of collective bargaining that some workers are engaging in – forming a workers committee. In one example, a group of 10 carwash workers in Santa Fe, New Mexico formed such a committee in order to send a certified letter to the facility’s owner detailing their grievances, such as mandatory off the clock work and a lack of protective items like gloves or goggles when working with harmful chemicals. Such committees are possible, the Times noted, under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 that bars employer retaliation when workers are “engaging in ‘concerted’ activity to improve their wages and conditions, even when they are not trying to unionize.” In New Mexico alone in recent years, workers at 12 companies have formed committees and complained to the National Labor Relations Board that they were fired after attempting to improve working conditions. In 11 or 12 cases, the Phoenix office of the NLRB ruled the firings were illegal and pushed for reinstatement of the workers.

What This Means For Small Businesses

The Times noted that the worker committees are proving controversial. As Brown University professor and labor relations specialist Andrew Schrank explained, “A lot of people thought the National Labor Relations Act could be used only during unionization campaigns.” With the move towards worker committees, “They’re finding that the National Labor Relations Act is much more expansive than many people thought.” Though workers should enjoy safe labor environments, broad interpretation of worker protections opens small business owners up to increasingly costly labor suits.

Additional Reading

NFIB has previously noted its recent efforts to stand up to big labor on behalf of small business owners.

Note: this article is intended to keep small business owners up on the latest news. It does not necessarily represent the policy stances of NFIB.

Related Content: Small Business News | Labor

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