Your rights to form & be involved in a union

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) extends rights to many private-sector employees including the right to organize and bargain with their employer collectively. Employees covered by the Act are protected from certain types of employer and union misconduct. They also have the right to attempt to form a union where none currently exists.

Jean Ray
Associate Tech Fellow
MP&P Engineer, Seattle

Every person needs to know they have the right, protected by federal law, to join a union of their choice. I saw the usual unfair actions that happen in the workplace, and I also saw how that changed when we became union represented employees. It was well worth the effort.

Examples of your rights as an employee under the NLRA:

  • Forming, or attempting to form, a union among the employees of your employer.

  • Joining a union whether the union is recognized by your employer or not.

  • Assisting a union in organizing your fellow employees.

  • Engaging in protected concerted activities. Generally, "protected concerted activity"
    is group activity which seeks to modify wages or working conditions.

NLRA forbids employers from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of rights relating to organizing, forming, joining or assisting a labor organization for collective-bargaining purposes, or engaging in protected concerted activities, or refraining from any such activity.

You have a legal right to: 

  • Attend meetings to discuss joining a union.

  • Read, distribute and discuss union literature, as long as you do this in non-work areas during
    non-work times, such as breaks or lunch hours.

  • Wear union buttons, T-shirts, stickers, hats, or other items supporting unions on the job.

  • Sign a card asking your employer to recognize and bargain with the union.

  • Sign petitions or file grievances related to wages, hours, working conditions and other job issues.

  • Ask other employees to support the union, to sign union cards or petitions, or to file grievances.

Protection from employer action

Examples of employer conduct which violate the NLRA:

  • Threatening employees with loss of jobs or benefits if they join a union or engage in protected concerted activity.

  • Threatening to close the plant if employees select a union to represent them.

  • Questioning you about your union support or activities in a manner that discourages you from engaging in that activity.

  • Promising benefits to employees to discourage their union support.

  • Transferring, laying off, terminating, assigning employees more difficult work tasks, or otherwise punishing employees because they engaged in union or protected concerted activity.

  • Punishing employees because they filed unfair labor practice (ULP) charges or participated in an investigation conducted by NLRB.

  • Spying on employees' union activities in or outside the workplace.


You have to play an active role in protecting your legal rights

Enforcement of the law does not happen by itself. If you are involved in organizing a union at your workplace, you should be in contact with a SPEEA organizer to become more informed of your rights and how to protect them!

  • Document it: Keep good written notes of any incidents in which company officials or supervisors threaten, harass or punish workers because of union activity. Keep track of any witnesses, times and dates of such incidents.

  • Report it: Immediately report any such incidents to SPEEA staff. 

What can we expect from management while organizing?

Every company reacts differently when workers come together to collectively bargain. Employees have the right to organize without fear of intimidation and retaliation.

Most employers want to make decisions without employee input. Naturally then, it is typical for employers to be reluctant or even resist efforts by employees to join or form a union. In addition, employers without unions often have little or no experience working with unions. As a result, employers may have inaccurate information about the union or what will happen once the union is in place. Management may also turn to outside consultants to help persuade employees to vote against the union.

Ultimately, the decision to form or join a union is made by employees. The right to form, join or vote in a union election is protected by federal law.  

SPEEA stands for a better future for
all aerospace professionals. 

SPEEA Leaders are committed to helping aerospace professionals gain the benefits and security of union representation."The SPEEA Council is committed to organizing new bargaining units to enhance the bargaining power of the SPEEA membership with our existing employers while simultaneously and judiciously extending a union voice and union wages, benefits and working conditions to other members of the defense, aerospace and aerospace-related engineering, technical and scientific community."- SPEEA Council Motion 12/09