THE LABOR sector represents the ordinary working man who must perform a corresponding amount of labor for proportional pay or compensation. This sector represents the foundation upon which a nation’s commerce and industry is erected. Upon their very blood and sweat shall a nation’s backbone be established which shall support the succeeding generations. Due to their social and economic status in society, the labor sector remains at an obvious disadvantage against the immense influence and vast resources of capital.
At times, the sector is subjected to countless abuse to their right under the law. The labor sector is allowed certain rights and privileges under the law since the law recognizes that the sector carries no other leverage against their employers except the threat of having to stop the process of production with the intention to adversely affect the right of capital to profit. This is made possible if labor acts collectively on their rights for through their sheer numbers can they overcome any transgression that capital may commit against their rights.
Legislations favoring the labor sector tend to merit more sympathy from lawmakers as the great multitude of workers represents a considerable number of voters. Yet, the sector of capital should not be also ignored as they possess the financial resources required to run political machinery. Labor law and unfair labor practices Recognizing the apparent inequality of socio-economic conditions governing the relation between labor and capital, the State in enacting labor laws seeks to equalize the rights and duties of these two parties, who are required to maintain a peaceful and productive coexistence despite having opposing interests.
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Labor laws place these two parties on a level playing field by allowing certain organized activities on the part of the employees to limit or lessen certain advantages that capital has over the former. Labor law is under the watchful domain of federal and state laws as well as well-written jurisprudence established by the courts and tribunals or persons exercising quasi-judicial functions. Likewise, certain administrative regulations and decisions of labor agencies are used as reference in resolving labor-related disputes.
The law defines unfair labor practice as any act or omission made by employers that violate or tends to violate any of the pertinent provisions of the National Labor Relations Act. The term also applies to any like violations of any other related labor legislation. Such practices are reprehensible by nature since it unfair labor practices violates the primal Constitutional guarantee that no one shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without the due process of the law. The National Labor Relations Act A few years after the Great Depression that left millions unemployed; workers slowly gathered in numbers and organize.
The middle of the 1930s saw the arrival of seemingly endless waves of strikes. Violence characterized the relation between workers and the forces of anti-union employers. To place an end to the chaos in the labor sector and possibly avert greater socio-political unrest, the U. S. Congress in 1935, recognized the need for a definitive legislation that will protect the rights of the common laborer and enacted the National Labor Relations Acts (NLRA). Considered as the Magna Carta of American labor, the NLRA put to end the undesirable practice by employers of spying, harass, unjustly discipline and blacklist union members.
The law also protected the rights of workers to form and join unions and removed the possibility of management reprisals as a result of such actions. It likewise created the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as the primary government agency tasked to enforce its hallowed provisions. Among the more important duties of the NLRB included the abatement of unfair labor practices, particular those committed by employers against their workers. However, industrialists and other anti-labor groups continue to pursue the repeal of the NLRA or at the least, a weakening of some of its provisions.
They achieved a certain level of success after 12 years in the guise of the Taft-Hartly Act which allowed for certain liabilities and preventive actions be attached to unions. Thus, under the succeeding law, unions may now be enjoined and sued for unreasonable mass picketing and boycotts. After yet another 12 years, a major amendment to the NLRA was enacted and imposed new restrictions on unions through the Landrum-Griffin Act. The key provisions of the NLRA can be found in Sections 7, 8 and 9 of the law.
Section 7 covered union and collective activities by labor and defined what protected activities under the NLRA are and provides that “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 and protection (NLRA, sec. 9). ” This provision is considered the very heart of the NLRA and provides the very reason why the statute was enacted in the first place.
By allowing the workers access to concerted activities, they have been empowered to enforce their rights and coerce employers to comply with the necessary standards set by labor law. This provision gave them defensive and at times, offensive weapons that they use against capital in the form protests, picketing, grievances, and strikes to ask for better terms and work conditions. On the other hand, Section 9 made employee grievances virtually untouchable by employers unless and until there is an opportunity to be present given to a representative of the union.
This provision also laid down the proper procedures for voting on union representation. Likewise, Section 9 recognized unions as exclusive bargaining representatives, provided that same is certified or recognized. Covered acts In discussing unfair labor practices, focus is given to Section 8 of the NLRA which provided the prohibited acts of both employers and employees. Thus, to maintain the balance of obligations and liabilities among employers and employees, both are prohibited from engaging in activities that may tend to disturb or disrupt industrial peace between the parties.
The provision prohibited acts by employers such as but not limited to the following acts. First, any acts of interference, restraint, or coercion of employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in section 7 of the NLRA, which provides for their right to organize and bargain collectively, is considered unlawful. Second, act of dominance or interference with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it are also prohibited: as such, the law sets employers at arms-length to avoid any form of influence it may assert over union activities.
Third, it is also considered illegal to discriminate against employees or prospective employees in terms of hiring or tenure of employment or terms or conditions pertaining thereto with the aim to discourage or encourage membership in any particular labor organization or group. Fourth, Section 8 employers are also prohibited to retaliate in the form of dismissal or discrimination, an employee solely by reason of any charges or legal action initiated with the NLRB.
If the employee is under constant threat of dismissal or retaliation from the employer, then the former would be hesitant to enforce his or her rights under the law, thus rendering the provisions as well as the very reason for its enactment inutile. An employee must be free from any form of restraint, whether actual or construction, present or imminent, from the employer as well as the work environment within which he or she functions. This provision ensures that an open and easy access to a tribunal that will help the laborer enforce his rights or benefits is made available to the said employee.
Section 8 of the NLRA also obligated employers to bargain with recognized or certified unions. This means that employers are now duty-bound to listen to the demands and grievances of the union and if necessary, make a counter-offer to the latter. However, the NLRA in its attempt to strike balance between the employer and the employee, also imposed restrictions and obligations upon the employees as well. These restrictions are calculated to regulate the unreasonable exercise of employee rights to such extend as to not disturb or disrupt the process of production which may prejudice the right of capital to profit.
Under the NLRA, the union is barred from interfering with the exercise of the rights of employees through fraud, coercion, machinations or similar means. In the same light, the union is also barred from influencing the employer in the choice of the exclusive bargaining representative. This includes the act of picketing for recognition for more than thirty days in absence a valid petition for an election. Likewise, it is illegal for union members to compel or cause the employer to discriminate against an employee as well as refuse to bargain with employer concerning the employees which such union represents.
In addition, a union is also not allowed to engage in secondary boycotts or that act by the union to convince other parties to cease from doing business with a company which continues to engage in business activities with another corporation which is the subject or target of a strike or boycott. Such an activity, although considered as an effective tool for compulsion, is discouraged since it tends to cripple productivity as well as create a collateral effect on a particular industry as a whole.
Neither does the NLRA allow the collection of excessive and unreasonable dues from union members as this would impose undue burden on the employee who would be compelled to part a portion of his meager hard-earned compensation with the union---an amount which at times, would not even be spent for his benefit. The practice of featherbedding by unions is likewise made illegal by the act since it is in essence a subtle form of work stoppage which in absence of a valid and legal cause, works injustice to the rights of the employer to a just return on capital.
Featherbedding is that notorious practice by unions to compel or coerce companies to hire workers which would be more than what is needed to perform certain tasks in the company. In effect, this would lighten the work load of the employees as well as reduce their production rate on a per capita basis. The union cannot also compel the company to severe its business ties with another firm for this would amount to a "hot cargo" agreement, which is also considered under the law as unfair labor practice.
In the case of workers in a health care establishment or facility, the union is required to provide the required notice within the prescribed period in order that the patients in such a facility would not be affected or their lives or health be placed in considerable jeopardy. The NLRA does not cover all employer-employee relationships. In some cases when the NLRA is inapplicable, other federal and state law may supplement the absence of an applicable provision.
An example of such instance would be those labor relations in the railway and airline industries which are covered by the Railway Labor Act or those employees working in the federal public sector which is covered under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Act. Yet, the prerogative to regulate the relationship between employer and their employees remains within the exclusive realms of the state even though such relationship is not covered by the NLRA. However, the law cautions us that acts of unfairness are not necessarily considered as unfair labor practice.
There must a certain degree of malice or depravity that accompanies the act and targets the very rights of labor and in the case of the NLRA, those of the employer as well. For instance, the failure to pay overtime compensation does not necessarily amount to unfair labor practice but merely a simple violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Or a simple non-compliance with the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement would only incur civil liabilities. There must be intent to adversely affect interstate trade and industry. The National Labor Relations Board
In enacting the NLRA, the United States Congress also created the National Labor Relations Board which is an independent federal agency whose sole purpose is to enforce the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act. It is composed of a five-person board and a General Counsel. The General Counsel is tasked to prosecute violations of the NLRA as well as act as an appellate entity to decisions rendered by administrative law judges. However, the NLRB cannot act on its own in filing the corresponding charges. It requires a complaint from any person other employees of the NLRB filed with six months from the time the cause of action arose.
It conducts labor union representation elections and investigative and remedial powers over unfair labor practices. The NLRB exercises jurisdiction over employers and employees in the private sector. Likewise, cases involving employees of the United States Postal Service are also covered by the powers and authority of the NLRB. --o-- In concluding, unfair labor practices continue to proliferate particularly when the level of unemployment in a particularly area or country is high. During times when numerous workers are without jobs, those who have employment would be willing to go to great lengths to keep it.
And the law must always be vigilant that no enterprising employer would take advantage of such situation. In another perspective, capital must be allowed a reasonable return on their investments otherwise it might not be encouraged to open up new business and factories which provides employment to millions. Employees must be restrained from pushing such business to the point of closure when such undertaking would later prove unprofitable and finally “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. ” And to prevent such is the sacred duty that must be performed by the NLRA and the NLRB.
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