The National Labor Relations Board, also shortly known as the NLRB was brought into existence as an autonomous government body by the United States Congress in the year 1935.
To uphold the National Labor Relations Act, which has served to be a significant law that has been curated for the sole purpose of safeguarding the rights of the majority of employees in the private sector, has been The National Labor Relations Board’s primary goal.
From having the ability to engage in collective bargaining to improve the wages and working conditions of the employees, with or without the intervention or interference of a labor union, the ambit of duties the Board has is very vast.
1. Understanding The National Labor Relations Board
The National Labor Relations Act also referred to as the Wagner Act, is such legislation that stands out as one of the most revolutionary laws in the arena of the labor department which has ever been enforced in the United States.
From having the ability to position employees in the private sector, who are employed by companies that have branches found nationally and internationally, to proceeding with uniting as well as participating in activities revolving around authorized protests or strikes, irrespective of the fact whether they are affiliated with a labor union, the fundamental objective of The National Labor Relations Act is simply to look out for the employees working in the private sector.
Complementing the aforesaid, if such rights as mentioned face any infringement or violation of any kind, the outcome of which directs towards having to receive an unfair treatment of the sort, then the responsibility of having to conduct investigations following which, if warranted, initiate appropriate measures lies in the hands of The National Labor Relations Board.
The National Labor Relations Board has been bestowed with the authority to not only address labor disputes in a prescribed manner identical to judicial proceedings, although its ability to do so lies in the quasi-judicial capacity it has, but also must follow and inculcate the following stated principles in doing the aforementioned:
- The Secret Ballot Elections: One of the most crucial roles of The National Labor Relations Board is to bestow upon the employees the opportunity to exercise their right the determine of the fact whether they desire to be represented by a labor union.
- From facilitating the aforesaid process by conducting secret ballot elections, where the employees are allowed to freely express their opinion and request for either wanting or not wanting to have a union representation to making sure such elections are conducted in a manner that remains confidential for ensuring the privacy and protection of employees’ choices are sustained, The National Labor Relations Board works solely for the easement of the employees.
- The fact that by governing and regulating the aforementioned election proceedings, The National Labor Relations Board strives to put ahead explicitly the fact that the employees must not only voice out their opinion pertaining to having a union representation as well as which specific union they prefer to be specific but also for their choices to be protected.
- The Unfair Labor Practices: Standing on the second most essential branch of The National Labor Relations Board is the duty to extend the provisions of prevention and remedies for all the acts of unfair labor practices executed by corporate entities such as employers, unions, or both parties.
- Not only does it comprise actions that interfere with and infringe on the employees’ rights, but unfair labor practices comprise several other behaviours for engaging in collective bargaining and other protected activities.
From scrutinizing and investigating the grievances filed as complaints pertaining to unfair labor practices by individuals or labor organizations to taking necessary actions regarding the same, such as issuing cease-and-desist orders, requiring the reinstatement of employees, and imposing penalties or sanctions to rectify the destruction caused by such unfair labor practices, the National Labor Relations Board is a body that fulfils its responsibilities to the best of its abilities.
2. The Provisions Under The National Labor Relations Act
Also famously known as the Wagner Act, The National Labor Relations Act was brought into force by the United States government in the year 1935.
The guidelines on which The National Labor Relations Board functions, The National Labor Relations Act is a foundational piece of labor legislation enacted in the United States that not only works to protect the rights of the workers for engaging in joint exchange of services but also enables them to form, join, or associate with various labor organizations.
To promote workplace equality by way of safeguarding the privileges of employees as put forth under The National Labor Relations Act for the engagement in concerted activities that stand beneficial for their growth as well as protection is the sole purpose of the said Act.
Not only does it grant an immense amount of protection to the employees, but also identifies ways to organize and bargain that lie in sync with their employers to improve their working conditions, wages, and benefits.
Certain grants reflected under The National Labor Relations Act serve to be of utmost essentiality which are as follows:
2.1. Section 3 of The National Labor Relations Act:
The National Labor Relations Act serves to be the creator of The National Labor Relations Board, which is an independent federal body that is authorized to administer, govern, and enforce the provisions laid down in the act.
The National Labor Relations Board is responsible for not just scrutinizing cases revolving around unfair labor practice charges but also for executing elections for union representation to underline whether employees seek to be represented by a labor union.
2.2. Section 7 of The National Labor Relations Act:
Under this section of the Act, the employees are bestowed with the right to self-organization which refers to creating, joining, or assisting any labor organization, as well as to engaging in any other activity that can lead for the employees’ mutual benefit or protection.
2.3. Section 8 of The National Labor Relations Act:
This section revolves around the concept of unfair labor practices that are executed by employers, other entities, and labor organizations.
From restraining the employers from indulging in activities that cause them to interfere or coerce the employees in the exercise of their rights under the said section to prohibiting such employers from intervening in the activity of forming, governing, or administrating the labor organizations, section 8 covers it all for the employees.
What marks the National Labor Relations Act distinct from other labor-related legislations enforced in the United States is that it has granted a briefly crafted legal framework for employees so they can indulge in the organisation of joint exchange of service that can help them balance, very precisely, the power struggle that lies between the workers and employers.
Applicable to only workers employed in the private sector, the National Labor Relations Act deems it inadmissible for the employees associated with the federal government, state and local governments, and certain agricultural administrators.
Such aforementioned entities fall under the ambit of public-sector employees, whose rights are supervised by different labor relations laws that are found specifically at the state and federal levels.
By protecting workers’ rights that can help them in attaining apt protections against wrong practices that are carried out by organizations and businesses as well as the fact that they have the provision to seek rightful representation if they so desire, The National Labor Relations Act has been termed as the most crucial ingredient in the development of labor rights and betterment of workplace environment for the employees in the corporate sector.
3. The Responsibilities Of The National Labor Relations Board
It has been clearly established that the role of The National Labor Relations Board is to regulate unfair trade practices carried out by organisations as well as grant the workers their rightful privileges.
However, it deems it highly necessary to dive in-depth into the said concept to understand better the duties, the body of power possesses, which are as follows:
3.1. To Aid in Conducting Elections:
Under The National Labor Relations Board, a provision that has been bestowed upon the workers is that if they desire to either curate or associate themselves with a labor union, they are hands-down allowed to after filing an election petition with an appropriate information officer, who can be found at their local regional office.
3.2. To Conduct Investigations on The Said Accusations:
It has been cleared that any employee, whose rights have been infringed as per The National Labor Relations Act is authorized to move ahead with the process of litigation.
Such aggrieved workers must file for a petition either against the employer or a labor union by filling in the appropriate information in a relevant form followed by associating with a local information officer.
3.3. To Contribute to The Negotiation of Settlements:
The core rule on the basis of which The National Labor Relations Board functions, is the fact that it vehemently pushes individuals, aggrieved, and accused to reach a settlement with each other, instead of pursuing the process of litigation.
3.4. To Help in Adjudicating Cases:
In cases, where an out-of-court settlement does not yield favourable results, the process of a lawsuit initiates. Here, identical to any other court proceedings, the parties are required to present evidence, witnesses, and arguments before an administrative law judge of The National Labor Relations Board.
3.5. To Ensure Rules Are Enforced:
It is the duty of the circuit courts to first indulge in analysing the orders passed by The National Labor Relations Board, and then decide whether it should be given a judicial assent that shall make the order forced to be abided by all, however, it must be highlighted upon that such a step is taken only if the court deems it fit.
3.6. To Engage in The Betterment of Rules:
The fact that with every growing day, the economic market faces changes, hence the labor laws must be adjusted along with it too.
This precisely being the reason, The National Labor Relations Board, to put up with such constant developments, prepares new techniques to combat infringements of employee rights in various scenarios which stands inclusive of altering The National Labor Relations Act that serves to be crucial for the functioning of the Board’s administration.
4. The Structure of The National Labor Relations Board
An agency brought into existence for the sole purpose of assisting the employees and workers to stand up against unfair trade practices and behaviours executed by organizations and other entities in terms of when their rights have been infringed or when they have witnessed the aforesaid authorities indulging in wrongful conducts is known as The National Labor Relations Board.
Being a petite agency, around 26 of them have been positioned across the regions of the United States for the regulation of the aforementioned.
Having a five-member board, accompanied by a general counsel, each of which is appointed by the President’s post receiving the assent of the Senate, is the basic administrative structure of The National Labor Relations Board.
To analyse a situation and stamp on whether a labor violation has been committed is the responsibility of the five-member board, whereas to act as a supervisor, as well as a prosecutor, falls under the job description of the general counsel.
4.1 The Construction of The Board
A traditional action, every year, by the President, post the positive assent of the United States Senate, a new member is affixed to the Board, with a responsibility to serve a tenure of five years.
Being bestowed with the duty to not only hear and analyse the labor disputes but to also follow them through resolution and settlement via quasi-judicial proceedings is the goal of all the five people present in The National Labor Relations Board panel.
4.2 The Role of The General Counsel
Not only granted the authority to oversee the activities taking place in The National Labor Relations Board’s various offices but The General Counsel is equally responsible for processing the cases, complemented with investigating any sort of unfair labor practices taking place, with scrutiny.
The General Counsel is an authority specifically appointed by the president for a tenure of four years who functions independently without any interference from the Board.
5. The Employee Rights Under The National Labor Relations Board
The National Labor Relations Act grants the employees the provisions to not just safeguard their rights but also to associate themselves with others in fulfilling various aspects such as improving their wages, bettering the working conditions etc. with or without the assistance of a union.
5.1 The Union Intervention
To either curate one where none is in existence or to take over a union where the employees have deserted such a body due to particular reasons, under The National Labor Relations Act the employees have the right to do the aforementioned.
The following states all the aspects that fall under the ambit of employee rights:
- To create, attempt to create, or join a labor union in their said workplace
- To associate oneself with a union irrespective of the fact whether such a union is assented to by the said employer
- To assist a labor union in governing and guiding one’s co-employees
- To have the choice of whether or not to carry out the above-stated activities
- To ensure the liberty of being fairly represented by a labor union
5.2 No Intervention of the Union
The concept of The National Labor Relations Act is to grant rights to all employees irrespective of their association with any labor union. Hence, workers without any union representation are also covered wholly under the said Act.
To mention in brief, the National Labor Relations Board especially grants guards to employees who engage in any sort of “concerted activity”. The aforementioned term refers to when two or more employees take any action for their mutual benefit or protection pertaining to the terms and conditions of their employment.
On the same lines, it is also stated that a single employee can engage in protected concerted activity if they are either working on the authority of other employees, are bringing group complaints to the employer’s attention, or are trying to induce group action, as well are functioning for seeking to prepare for group action.
Defining all the arenas that fall under the range of the term “protected concerted activities” are as follows:
- Two or more employees indulging in the address of increasing their monetary gain as salary to their employer
- Two or more employees bringing to light work-related issues falling out of the circle of the payment such as safety concerns, and bettering the workplace environment, with each other.
- An employee engaging in valuable conversation with another employee on behalf of one or more co-workers pertaining to the improvement the workplace conditions, ethics, and environment.
5.3 The Individuals Protected Under The National Labor Relations Board
The National Labor Relations Act of The National Labor Relations Board strives to grant protections to every employee belonging to the private or corporate sector, however, there are certain categories of individuals who fall out of the ambit of protections dispersed by the Act. Such entities are stated as follows:
- Individuals who are employed by Federal, state, or any local government
- Individuals who are employed as agricultural laborers or administrators
- Individuals who are employed in any domestic service of any person or family in a home
- Individuals who are employed by a parent, spouse, or family
- Individuals who are employed as an independent contractor
- Individuals who are employed as a supervisor
- This especially refers to those supervisors who have been socially and professionally isolated for refusing to violate the rules laid down in The National Labor Relations Act
- Individuals who are employed by an employer under the Railway Labor Act, such as railroads and airlines
- Individuals who are employed by any other person who is not an employer as defined under The National Labor Relations Act
5.4 Landmark Case of the National Labor Relations Board Defending Employee Rights
The National Labor Relations Board, since its initiation in the year 1935, has been bestowed with the goal of indiscriminately protecting the rights of the workers employed in the private and corporate sectors across all aspects of work.
Not only has such efforts of the Board yielded innumerable benefits to the employees but has also served as a source to numerous landmark judgements and topped in the news which has helped in the crafting of better labor practices prevailing in the United States.
In the case of the Baseball Strike that took place in 1994, The National Labor Relations Board was held on a pedestal when it aided to end a baseball strike that culminated in the 1994 playoffs and had the World Series stand cancelled.
Having terrible chaos surrounding the game, The National Labor Relations Board not only intervened but also persuaded Judge Sonya Sotomayor, who was the District Court judge then, to issue an injunction that made it essential for the team owners to reinstate the provisions of the old collective bargaining agreement. This move of the Board, “saved baseball” as expressed by former President Barack Obama.
Not only the aforementioned, but it so happened in November 2021, due to some intra-quarrels, a case had been raised by the workers in Alabama, where the intervention of The National Labor Relations Board led to an amicable resolution.
The agency gave the employees at an Amazon warehouse in the afore-stated state, another chance at unionizing after concluding that the e-commerce company had interfered in the first election.
Following that was the case filed by the National College Players Association in December 2022, where the said the association had accused the University of Southern California football and basketball teams of being engaged in unfair labor practices.
An ongoing case still, the question at hand that The National Labor Relations Board is to look into is the fact whether “student-athletes are in fact employees of universities and should be protected as such”.
The role of The National Labor Relations Board in safeguarding the rights of the employees has been of utmost essentiality as it solely functions on the guidelines laid down by The National Labor Relations Act.
From understanding the concept of the Board, the responsibilities it possesses to the kinds of protections bestowed upon the employees by them, the National Labor Relations Board has been brought into existence as a saviour to the workers who function in the private and corporate sectors.