The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects workers’ rights to engage in activities related to organizing and collective bargaining. The statute prohibits employers from interfering with employees who are exercising their rights, or from coercing them against such activities. New Jersey employment laws provide some protections for labor organizing, but much of the work happens at the federal level. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has the authority to investigate and adjudicate alleged NLRA violations. In April 2022, the General Counsel (GC) of the NLRB issued a memo calling on the NLRB to challenge meetings held by employers to address labor organizing activities, which employees are required to attend. The GC’s position would require the NLRB to reverse a seven-decade-old precedent allowing these types of meetings.
Employees have the right to “self-organization,” to join a union or form their own, and to select representatives to engage in collective bargaining with their employers. They also have the right to refrain from engaging in these types of activities. Employers may not “interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees” with regard to any of these rights. They may not discriminate against employees based on participation in protected activities, nor may they retaliate against workers who engage in acts protected by the NLRA.
In 1948, the NLRB issued a decision regarding an employer that required employees to attend a meeting, held during work hours, at which several managers gave speeches discouraging union organizing or membership. A Trial Examiner had held that the “compulsory” nature of the meeting violated the NLRA’s ban on coercion by employers. The NLRB disagreed. It held that the employer’s actions were not unlawful under the NLRA based on the “totality of the circumstances.” This decision has functioned as a precedent for seventy-four years in cases challenging mandatory employee meetings in which employers address organizing activities.