protestor angry picketerSo you are a small or medium-sized business without any unionized employees.  In fact, your employees are like your family and no one has even considered the idea of forming a union — the thought is laughable! The National Labor Relations Act surely doesn’t matter to your small business.  That is the realm of teachers and car manufacturers and big box retailers with hundreds of thousands of employees. Right? Wrong!

If you are engaging in commerce (and that would be all businesses) and you have even one employee, you are subject to the rules by the National Labor Relations Board. And guess what? They made a rule that applies to you.

You may or may not be aware that as an employer you are required to put up posters in your workplace (even if it’s in your living room) advising employees of their payroll rights, worker’s compensation rights, leave rights, and many other wage and employment law regulations. In fact, so much information has to be on these posters, that they tend to be pretty large with tiny font, just to squeeze it all in.

On top of the state and Federally mandated employment law and wage law posters, employers are also required to post an advisement to their employees that they are protected if they wish to engage in any labor organization activities. (The advisement, authored by the pro-union government regulatory agency, the National Labor Relations Board, is silent on employees rights to opt-out of union activities and dues.) Failing to post carries fines and even prosecutions. If any of the state labor boards or the Federal Department of Labor decides to audit or surprise inspect your workplace (yes, that happens to small businesses), the fines are surprisingly hefty. And, worse, labor commissioners can shut your business’s doors until you comply with any labor and premises violations that they find — with very little notice.

So you better get your posters.

In the unfortunate event that your workforce decides to engage in collective bargaining activities, or if you are in an industry where your workers are already part of larger unions (i.e. healthcare, retail, trucking, construction and government contracting), then you need to stay on top of labor laws.  Labor problems that need legal help include:

  • National Labor Relations Board prosecutions, grievances and appeals
  • Arbitration of employee grievances with union representation
  • Labor contract negotiations and collective bargaining
  • Strikes and picketing
  • Unfair labor practice accusations
  • “Union free” programs implementation (and risk mitigation and advisement)
  • Counter-organizing campaigns
  • Union issues related to acquisitions
  • Plant closings and relocations
  • Union trust fund claims
  • Union pension funds
  • Prevailing wage laws and disputes

Labor unions have their place (like at 19th century factories and coal mines). So remember that you must educate your employees of their rights to organize. But you may also want to legally educate them on their rights not to (called their “right to work” and protected in most states by law). Regardless of your workforce’s make up and size, however, you must care about labor union laws, such as the National Labor Relations Act, because they apply to you!