The National Labor Relations Act
The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 is a foundational statute of United States labor law which guarantees basic rights of private sector employees to organize into trade unions, engage in collective bargaining for better terms and conditions at work, and take collective action including strike if necessary. The act also created the National Labor Relations Board, which conducts elections that can require employers to engage in collective bargaining with labor unions. The Act does not apply to federal, state or local government workers or independent contractors.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is the primary enforcer of the Act. The NLRB has two basic functions: overseeing the process by which employees decide whether to be represented by a labor organization and prosecuting violations. Those processes are initiated in the regional offices of the NLRB.
Section 7 (29 U.S.C. § 157) sets out the general principle that employees have the right to join a trade union and engage in collective bargaining: “Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all of such activities except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment as authorized in section 8(a)(3)”
The law defines a set of prohibited actions by employers, employees, and unions, known as an unfair labor practice. The first five unfair labor practices aimed at employers are in section 8(a). These are,
(a)(1) "to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in section 7". This includes freedom of association, mutual aid or protection, self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively for wages and working conditions through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other protected concerted activities with or without a union.
(a)(2) "to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it"
(a)(3) "by discrimination in regard to hire or tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization"
(a)(4) discriminating against employees who file charges or testify.
(a)(5) refusing to bargain collectively with the representative of the employer's employees.