It is the goal of private businesses to make as much profit as possible.

An rich animal with a lot of money

They want to spend as little money as needed. Sometimes that means paying employees less than they feel that they deserve.

Fortunately, as a United States citizen, you have certain rights that can help give you leverage at the bargaining table for better wages.

One of the biggest of these rights is the right to organize or join a labor union.

Union workers are chanting

What is a labor union?

A labor union is a group of employees in an organization or industry that band together to bargain for better pay and benefits.

A man with money and the text says Bargaining As an individual, it can be difficult to bargain for better pay and benefits because the employer can easily replace you with someone willing to earn less.

As a group, a union can halt business by going on strike, which pressures the employer to meet their demands in order to resume production.

A group of strikers and one says,

The Right to Join or Organize a Union

Under the National Labor Relations Act, most employees of private businesses have the right to join a union or form a union if one doesn't exist.

A man says,

This also means they have the right to:

  • Form or join a union even if the employer doesn't recognize the union

  • Help other workers form or join a union

  • Be represented by a union

  • Bargain collectively

What Employers Cannot Do

Employers are prohibited from interfering in your right to unionize or retaliating against you for exercising it.

A girl says,

That means they cannot:

  • Threaten to fire an employee or reduce their pay or benefits for taking part in union activities

  • Punish employees through job transfers or by making their work more difficult if they engage in union activities

  • Threaten to close a business that has become unionized

  • Promise special privileges to those who opt out of joining a union

  • Question employees about their opinions regarding unions

Who is Excluded from These Rights?

Unfortunately, there are some groups who are excluded from the rights outlined in the National Labor Relations Act.

A sad man says,

These groups include:

  • Federal, state, or local government employees

  • Agricultural laborers

  • Domestic service employees of private citizens

  • Anyone employed by a parent or spouse

  • Independent contractors

  • Supervisors

  • Employees of organizations subject to the Railway Labor Act (e.g., railways, airlines)

However, none of these groups are forbidden from unionizing outright and may be protected by other laws, some of which may be at the state level.


Which of these people has a legal case against their employer per the National Labor Relations Act?


A. Three adult children were working at their parents' business and they tried to form a union. Their parents fired them.


B. Several employees tried to start a union at their factory. The employer offered raises to some employees if they didn't help form the union.

government building

C. A state employee working in a state that doesn't allow government employees to unionize discussed starting a union with some coworkers. Soon after, she was pulled aside by her boss and told sternly to stop talking about unionizing.


D. A union tried to collectively bargain for higher wages at a coal mine. The owner of the coal mine threatened to shut the mine down and retire instead of meeting their demands.


Select all the correct answers that apply:

Take Action

Now you know your rights regarding unions!

An animation depicting a fist rising in the air. The text reads,

Would you like to learn about your other rights?


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