Most non-governmental workers have a federal right to organize on the job. That means workers can try and improve their job conditions by coming together to form their own organization (a union).
But the right to organize is not limited to union activity. Workers who come together (two or more) in an effort to make their working conditions better are also protected. This is called “concerted activity.” A few examples include:
- Circulating a petition among employees (on the employee’s own time) asking their employer for higher pay, to fix unsafe machinery, paid sick days off or other issues.
- Two or more workers coming together to meet with the employer to address low pay, workplace safety, or hostile treatment by a manager.
- Workers talking together about job conditions they want to see improved.
An employer may not retaliate against workers who engage in these types of activities, nor may they interfere with a workers’ right to organize. For example, an employer may not:
- Threaten to fire, threaten to take away job benefits, threaten to discipline, or threaten to subject a worker to other negative consequences for his or her support of union or other concerted activity.
- Subject a worker to termination, the deprivation of job benefits, discipline or other negative consequences for his or her support of union or other concerted activity.
- Question a worker about his or her support for the union or other concerted activity.
- Attempt to discourage a worker from joining a union or participating in concerted activity by promising better pay, a promotion or other benefits.
Before organizing on the job, we suggest that workers consult with an established union or a labor law attorney to make sure your rights are protected. If your employer pays low-wages, you may call Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom for a free consultation. We are a nonprofit organization that helps low-wage workers access the legal and organizational support they need to protect their rights and connects low-wage workers to employment lawyers when needed.