Because worker centers are largely exempt from federal and state labor laws, dealing with them can be complicated. There are few clear answers to employers’ questions.
Can a company fire an employee because they join a worker center?
No. Non-union employees have rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to concerted activity to improve working conditions, including discussing working conditions with outside agents.
Can a company fire or replace an employee who walks off the job as part of a worker center’s strike?
It depends. Non-union employees’ rights under Section 7 include the right to strike, pursuant to National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regulations. It is legal to permanently replace a worker striking for economic reasons, as defined by the NLRB. It is not legal to permanently replace a worker engaged in an unfair labor practice strike, as defined by the NLRB. Worker centers often claim they are striking over unfair labor practices—this assertion can be challenged. Consult an attorney for specifics on your particular case.
Can a company get an injunction against a worker center?
It depends. Some employers have successfully won restraining orders against worker centers for disruptive behavior. Worker centers are not, however, subject to the NLRA’s prohibition on organizational pickets lasting longer than 30 days.
Can a worker center force a company to bargain with employees?
No. In fact, there are circumstances under which it is illegal to bargain with a worker center. Unless a worker center petitions for and wins representation as defined by NLRB practice and procedure, employers are under no obligation to bargain with it.