Jean Ray
Associate Tech Fellow

MP&P Engineer, Seattle


Every person needs to know they have the right, protected by federal law, to join a union of their choice. I saw the usual unfair actions that happen in the workplace, and I also saw how that changed when we became union represented employees. It was well worth the effort.


Visit the 75th Anniversary web site

"The right to join a labor union of one's choice is unquestioned today and is sanctioned and protected by law."

President Harry Truman



"Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice."

President Dwight Eisenhower


Your union rights to Organize!


The National Labor Relations Act (a federal law) provides employees the right to form, join, or assist a labor union. This same law prohibits employers from intimidating, coercing, or firing employees in retaliation for exercising their right to form, join, or assist unions. Employees have the right to discuss forming a union and can distribute union literature during breaks, before and after work.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects employees rights to: 


  • Form, or attempt to form a union of employees where they work.


  • Join a union, whether the union is recognized by your employer or not.


  • Assist a union effort to organize fellow employees.


  • Engage in protected concerted activities. Generally, "protected concerted activities" are group activity seeking to modify wages or working conditions.


Employees have a legal right to: 


  • Refuse to talk to management about the union.

  • Attend meetings to discuss joining a union.


  • Read, distribute and discuss union literature, as long as you do this in non-work areas during non-work times, such as breaks or lunch hours.


  • Wear union buttons, T-shirts, stickers, hats, or other items supporting unions on the job.


  • Sign a card asking your employer to recognize and bargain
    with the union.


  • Sign petitions or file grievances related to wages, hours, working conditions and other job issues.


  • Ask other employees to support the union, to sign union cards or petitions, or to file grievances.



Employers cannot:


  • Interrogate employees about union sentiment or union activity.

  • Discriminate against employees who support the union.

  • Prevent employees from talking with co-workers about the union on their own time.

  • Spy on employees' union activities in or outside the workplace.

  • Support or give assistance to anti-union employees.


Employers cannot interfere


NLRA forbids employers from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of rights relating to organizing, forming, joining or assisting a labor organization for collective-bargaining purposes, or engaging in protected concerted activities, or refraining from any such activity.


Examples of employer conduct which violate the NLRA:

  • Threatening employees with loss of jobs or benefits if they join a union or engage in protected concerted activity.
  • Threatening to close the plant if employees select a union to represent them.
  • Questioning employees about their union sympathies or activities in circumstances that tend to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights under the Act.
  • Promising or ganting benefits to employees to discourage their union support.
  • Transferring, laying off, terminating, assigning employees more difficult work tasks, or otherwise punishing employees because they engaged in union or protected concerted activity.

  • Punish employees because they filed unfair labor practice charges or participated in an investigation conducted by NLRB.


You have to play an active role in protecting your legal rights

Enforcement of the law does not happen by itself. If you are involved in organizing a union at your workplace, you should be in contact with a SPEEA organizer to become more informed of your rights and how to protect them!


  • Document it!  Keep good written notes of any incidents in which company officials or supervisors threaten, harass or punish workers because of union activity. Keep track of any witnesses, times and dates of such incidents.