National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)


The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was passed in 1935, and later amended by the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), also know as the Taft-Hartley Act, in 1947. The purpose of the NLRA was to codify the federal policy favoring industrial relations stability and employee free choice. Although the NLRA covers most employers, some industries are exempt from its protection. For a list of exempt industries, click here.

The NLRA makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of that employees union activities or affiliation. Also, employers cannot threaten or coerce employees for engaging in union activity nor can they make promises to employees in exchange for their not engaging in union activities. For other acts that violate the NLRA, click here.



The NLRA’s employee protections extend also to employees who, although not affiliated with a union, engage in concerted, protected activity. Concerted, protected activity is activity engaged in by one or more employees with the intention of improving the terms and conditions of employment of all employees. Examples of protected concerted activity include complaints from a group of employees about wage rates and benefits and discussions between employees about wages and benefits. Employers should not maintain work rules that prohibit employees from discussing their wages or benefits with co-workers, as such rules generally violate the NLRA.

The NLRA also created the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is responsible for enforcing the terms of the NLRA. The NLRB, in addition to its enforcement authority, has the responsibility of conducting representation elections and certifying unions as the bargaining representatives of employees. The election process is initiated when a union or group of employees files a petition with the NLRB seeking a representation election. Employees who are currently represented by a union may also file a petition seeking to decertify a union as their representative.

Employers who either voluntarily recognize a union or whose employees vote to have a union represent them are obligated to bargain with union in good faith in an attempt to reach an agreement on a collective bargaining agreement. Once the employer and the union agree to a collective bargaining agreement, the employer is not allowed to change it employees’ terms and conditions of employment without first seeking to bargain with the union.

The NLRA also places obligations on unions. First, the NLRA imposes on unions a duty to represent the employees in the bargaining unit fairly. For example, a union cannot treat a non-dues paying member differently from a dues paying member. Second, the NLRA prohibits unions from engaging in certain types of strikes.

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