There has been a steady growth in the number of charges related to unfair labor practices with the NLRB (National Relations Board) (Steenson, 2010). This article describes what Unfair Labor Practices are. It goes further to explain the fines assessed by the companies. It also discusses the rate of repeat offenders. It begins by giving the definition of unfair labor practices. It then explains the various interests potentially harmed by Unfair Labor Practices. The interests discussed include individual interests, collective interests and union interest. The paper then describes the available remedies for the wrongdoing. Remedies discussed have been categorized into individual interests, union and collective employees’ interests. Finally, the paper discussed the rate of repeat offenders.
Unfair labor practices
Labor practices are termed unfair when an employer, whether in concert with others or individually, do any of the following discussed acts (Wisconsin Statutes, 2013).When the employers interfere with, coerce, or restrain the employees from the exercise of the employees’ rights (Wisconsin Statutes, 2013, then it is regarded as an unfair labor practice. It would also be termed unfair labor practice if the employer initiate, interfere, create, or dominate the administration or formation of any labor organization. It is also unfair for the employer to provide financial support to a labor organization (Wisconsin Statutes, 2013).
Another unfair labor practice is whereby the employer encourages or discourages membership in any employee agency, labor organization, representation plan, association, or committee. Employers may do this through discrimination concerning tenure, hiring, or other conditions or terms employment. However, an exception is provided in a unit of collective bargaining where an agreement of all union is in effect (Wisconsin Statutes, 2013).
It is an unfair labor practice to refuse to collectively bargain with representatives of the majority of an employer’s employees in any unit of collective bargaining. This may be in respect to representation or conditions or terms of employment (Mayer, 2007). Therefore, it is unfair for an employer to bargain collectively with a number of representatives that are less than employees’ majority (Wisconsin Statutes, 2013). It is also termed as unfair labor practice to discriminate against or discharge an employee because they have given information or testimony or filed charges in good faith under relevant provisions (Wisconsin Statutes, 2013).
Harm caused by unfair labor practices
The LRB is empowered to provide necessary remedies to compensate and restore the harm caused by the ULPs (Mayer, 2007). An employer is found guilty of commission of ULP during organizing where the actions interfere with the employees’ rights or the union in search of collective representation. A union, an employer, a person representing the union or employer, or any other person, may commit unfair Labor Practices. The impact of these practices may harm the interests of collective employees, individual employee, and the union. Such harm can be immediate or prospective, pecuniary or non-pecuniary.
Individual employee interests
Employees have substantive interests in their workplace and job. These interests include their work content, remuneration, other employment terms and conditions, and the social and physical work environment. The importance associated with these interests reflects the main significance of the work in the lives of employees. For most employees, employment is necessary to support themselves, responsibilities and other endeavors in their lives (Steenson, 2010). This interest in individual employee may be harmed when the employment’s terms and conditions are diminished. Such a diminishment arises when an individual employee is subjected to intimidation, threats, or coercion, or is disciplined. It may also happen when the working environment is worsened through factors such as creation of a threatening or intimidating workplace atmosphere, or increased managers’ surveillance. The individual interests may also be harmed when autonomy or freedom at work is reduced. Finally, it may be harmed when the worker is fired and altogether loses employment (Slinn, 2008).
Collective employee interests
This is a second, distinct interest by individual employees in the opportunity to engage in the collective activity of the workplace such as representation in a union. Collective employee interests include free access and fair process in the determination of whether the group they are associated with will have collective representation (Payne, 2009).The employees should be provided with an opportunity to choose and decide freely, without interference from the employer regarding union representation. The existence of collective interests does not consider the worker’s preference to unionization. Collective interest, therefore, provides intrinsic value of the opportunity for choice. It may also have value that is great or less to various individuals. Some employees view it as a way of improving their conditions of work, therefore, contributing to their substantive interests. The reverse may apply for other employees (Payne, 2009).
Many employers may eliminate or substantially reduce the ability of workers to exercise their organizational rights and the unionization likelihood. This may lead to a reduction or subsequent loss in the opportunity to decide freely on having a union representation. Harm done on the collective employee interest arises from harm that is directed at the individual workers. Therefore, it affects the individual interests at first instance. Misconduct of employer, such as illegal termination, can seriously affect the collective interests (Slinn, 2008).
Union interests are separate or in conflict with the collective and individual interests of employees (Steenson, 2010). Unions are institutions whose existence is independent of their members. They have concerns and goals that extend beyond a group of workers or a single workplace. They invest well in their campaigns. A specific campaign may solely focus on immediately organizing a workplace. It may also join a lengthier organizing effort. It is also possible for organizing strategies to extend beyond a particular workplace. Labor unions may try to organize the entire industry’s workplaces. Unions try to unionize very many locations in an industry (Payne, 2009).
This happens when an employer discharges an employee in an improper manner during organizing (Steenson, 2010). Illegal termination includes removal of effective union supporters or removal of an active employee in the union. Most employers do this as an example to other employees to coerce or intimidate them to avoid support of unionization. This action by the employer can harm the interests of both employee and union. Illegal dismissal, for instance, may lead to the individual suffering in lost benefits and income. It may also lead to fire distress and other possible consequent losses. It may also result into longer-lasting consequences to an employee (Steenson, 2010). The dismissed employee may find it extremely hard to be hired in another job. Beyond these consequences, the overwhelming power of employers is emphasized. This tends to underscore the subordination of employees. As a result, an atmosphere of intimidation, distrust and fear is created in the workplace. This is detrimental to the employees as they continuously worry on their job security. The fear affects the collective interests of employees by depriving employees of their free choice about unionization. They will also be discouraged from participation in the future and present opportunities for unionization (Slinn, 2008).
Illegal employer communication
This involves an employer communicating anti-union messages to employees illegally in order to avoid unionization. This may happen as the employer express their views about unionization (Steenson, 2010). They may also be trying to understand the dissatisfaction nature that may have driven the workers towards unionization. Unlawful communications by an employer include group meetings and one-on-one conversation. It can negatively affect the interests of both collective employees and individuals. The employee target clearly suffers harm from the communication (Payne, 2009).
Fines for harm indicted on individual employee interests
Some fines are primarily directed at harm on the individual. Reinstatement is the commonly awarded remedy under illegal termination. It may or may not be awarded along with back pay for the lost wages. However reinstatement appears to compensate individual employees fully, the process may not be satisfactory. Such remedies fail to compensate fully the employees affected. They also fail to provide scant relief to the workers, especially those who were illegally fired. These workers may be unwilling to return to their job work, perhaps due to another employment found elsewhere (Slinn, 2008). When it is determined by NLRB that an individual has been denied or discharged from work in violation of NLRA, it is ordered that the individual be reinstated with a back pay (Steenson, 2010).
However, these remedies may be best effective when they are awarded promptly. They include back pay and reinstatement, and the willingness of the employer and employee to re-establish their working relationship. However, the employee may not be able to cover all the income and benefit losses. Nevertheless, individuals should mitigate their losses during the period of ULP hearing to order and conclude a remedy (Steenson, 2010).
Fines for harm caused on union and collective employee interests
These remedies may be categorized into communication and access orders, and allowing unions to access the workers.
Communication and access orders
These orders make it possible for unions to communicate with workers through union meetings. The union meets the workers compensated by the employer during working hours. For that purpose, the employer is required to furnish the union with the use of a bulletin board, mail all materials of the union to all employees, or post the LRB decision or a statement in the workplace (Steenson, 2010). This remedy serves to counteract the chilling effect that the employer ULPs may have had on the support of other employees for organizing. The remedy also serves to counter the damaging and erroneous information that may have been given out by the employers about unionization or about the union. Through access orders, unions are granted with unlimited access to workers during the process of organizing. These remedies, therefore, are directed at repairing the harm to union and collective employee interests (Slinn, 2008).
This is an unusual remedy generally and sparingly awarded only in unusual circumstances. This remedy was developed to respond to the traditional desist and cease order where such an order failed to deter the wrongdoing or repair the harm done. It is meant to compensate the employee for illegal interference by the employer. It grants the employees the representation that they would have had if the employer’s misconduct were absent. It deters illegal conduct by the employer and preserve the employees’ freedom to associate (Slinn, 2008).
Remedial certification may be described as the employer’s removal of fruits of wrongdoing (Steenson, 2010). The remedy may benefit the union in the short-term. In the longer term, however, the benefit it offers to collective employee and individual interest is more ambiguous. It partially restores the collective and union interests. Moreover, it temporarily deprives employees of their representation choice (Steenson, 2010).
This remedy is set to compensate the party that has been wronged (Steenson, 2010). It is also meant to withhold the violation fruits of the wrongdoer. This make-whole order was developed in response to the inadequacy in the existing remedies. It played a major role in the order of ceasing and desist that allows the employer to retain benefits of their illegal behavior. The LRBs has ensured that the make-whole orders are applied where other remedies are termed as inadequate. They have also ensured that compensation by money terms will only be on the injured party and hence not punitive. This approach is used to justify a combination of remedies, with the various compensation forms of monetary terms to unions included. Monetary compensation include awards of organizing costs or legal costs that are directed at restoration of losses that unions incur as a result of ULPs by the employer (Slinn, 2008).
In reference to omission or commission of any act, repeat implies the omission or commission of such an act more than once or more than one day if the omission or commission is continuous. In this case, repeat offenders are those employers who commit unfair labor practices to their employees more than once. The repeat offenders are required to post electronically the notices of the union. It is a new rule by the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) to enhance penalties for those employers who commit ULPs. The employer is required to electronically distribute and publish the remedy notices if they communicate routinely with the employees in that manner (Management report, 2011). According to Slinn (2008), the LRB authority is not likely to be extended to allow penal or punitive awards even for the repeated serious ULPs.
Employees in any firm have their own rights and freedom. They have the rights to work for their employer and the right to be treated fairly. They also have the right to communicate their grievances and seek attention for their worries. Unionization is important to guard the employees against unfair labor practices by their employer. The LRB has drafted several approaches against the employer illegalities regarding the labor practices. The employer is required to compensate for the harm they cause through their wrongdoing. This paper concludes by supporting the actions of labor unions. It has covered the various forms of harms caused by the wrongdoing of the employer and the remedies available. Some of the remedies are not satisfactory, but overall they are sufficient. Hence, it is important to allow employees to realize fully their right to organize freely. Mandate fulfilling would also be important for a reduction or elimination of the existing employers’ perverse incentives to engage in illegal tactics that are anti-union during organizing (Slinn, 2008).
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