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Unfair Labor Practice

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Conduct prohibited by federal law regulating relations between employers, employees, and labor organizations.

Before 1935 U.S. LABOR UNIONS received little protection from the law. Employers used many tactics to prevent employees from joining unions and to disrupt union activities in the workplace. The passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935, also known as the WAGNER ACT (29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq.), marked the beginning of affirmative federal government support of unionization and COLLECTIVE BARGAINING. The NLRA prohibits employers from taking certain actions against their employees and the unions that represent them. A prohibited action is called an unfair labor practice.

Section 158 of the NLRA lists employer actions that constitute UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICES. Section 158 (a)(1) prohibits employers from interfering with the rights of employees to establish, belong to, or aid labor organizations; to conduct collective bargaining through the employees' chosen representatives; and to participate in concerted activities, such as strikes, for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.

Section 158 (a)(3) outlaws employer-formed or -dominated "company unions." Section 158 (a)(3) forbids employers to discriminate in hiring, firing, and other aspects of employment on the basis of union activity. Section 158 (a)(4) prohibits firing or discriminating against any employee because he has filed charges or testified before the agency charged with enforcing the statute. Section 158 (a)(5) requires employers to engage in collective bargaining with employee representatives.

The NLRA proved to be an effective tool for labor unions. Union membership and economic power grew so rapidly between 1935 and 1945 that the business community complained that unions were abusing their new strength. As a result, in 1947 Congress passed the TAFT-HARTLEY ACT, also known as the LABOR-MANAGEMENT RELATIONS ACT (29 U.S.C.A. § 141 et seq.), which amended the NLRA by prohibiting certain union activities as unfair labor practices. These activities include secondary boycotts (boycotts against the employer's customers or suppliers), jurisdictional strikes over work assignments, and strikes to force an employer to discharge an employee on account of her union affiliation or lack of it.

The NLRA also established the NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD (NLRB) as an ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCY to administer and interpret the unfair labor practice provisions. The NLRB hears allegations of unfair labor practices and makes rulings, which may be appealed in the federal courts.


Labor Law; Labor Union.

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