Earlier this month, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), in collaboration with three other federal agencies, launched a new digital toolkit to promote workers’ right to unionize and facilitate healthy labor-management relations. Agencies joining the SBA included the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). The unique digital toolkit provides employers with guidance when responding to workers exercising their right to unionize. Previously, the NLRB released proposed changes to its joint employer rule.
Workers’ Right to Unionize
Created in 1935 with the passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the NLRB protects all employees’ rights under the NLRA. These include the right to unionize and to determine whether to have those unions represent them during collective bargaining. In doing so, it ensures employees can work together to improve their wages and working conditions. Additionally, the NLRB prevents private sector employers from engaging in retaliation and wrongful termination or otherwise instituting unfair labor practices directed at employees in exercising their rights.
Generally, the NLRA covers most employees, whether the workplace is unionized or non-unionized. Meanwhile, the NLRB has broad jurisdiction, covering the majority of non-government employers. Covered employers include non-profits, employee-owned businesses, labor organizations, and businesses in states with “Right to Work” laws. Among these, NLRB’s statutory jurisdiction covers private-sector employers whose interstate commerce activities exceed specified minimum levels, variable by business type.
What Is Included in the Digital Toolkit?
The multiagency digital toolkit highlights the mutual benefits to employers and employees of healthy labor-management relations where concerns about pay and working conditions can be openly discussed. Subsequently, the toolkit follows the Biden Administration’s Executive Order Establishing the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment in its goal of promoting workers’ right to unionize and collectively bargain with their employers. The toolkit answers questions about a small business employer’s obligation under the NLRA and offers resources for compliance. In detail, the toolkit provides several resources for employers, including information on:
- navigating critical workplace issues;
- protecting a worker’s right to unionize or choose not to be represented;
- establishing mutually beneficial labor-management relations; and
- addressing other small business concerns, including posting requirements and safety and health resources.
How the Right to Unionize Benefits Employers
According to NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo, “… effective labor-management partnerships … benefit workers, small businesses, and communities alike.” The Economic Policy Institute reports that sixteen million U.S. workers are union members, while more than six in ten of these workers are women and people of color. Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has published that upholding workers’ right to unionize and collectively bargaining has historically advanced civil liberties and promoted diversity in the workplace.
In turn, a more diverse workplace provides access to a broader range of talent, perspectives, and ideas and can lead to increased innovation revenue. Healthful labor-management relations and diversity can also lead to higher motivation and employee engagement overall. In other words, when employees are part of a diverse workforce, and one where they can practice their right to unionize without illegal repercussions, they are happier and more productive. In the end, both employees and employers can reap the benefits of positive labor-management relations.