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Employees of Major Retailer Vote to Unionize, Which Could Influence New Jersey Workers

Labor unions have helped workers achieve significant improvements in pay and working conditions in New Jersey and across the county by enabling them to bargain collectively with their employers. Instead of each individual employee negotiating with their employer, employees can pool their resources and present a united front. Union membership has fallen over the past few decades for a variety of reasons, but this might be changing. As people return to the workforce after the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, workers are asserting their rights to fair pay, safe work environments, and more. Employees of a major online retailer on Staten Island, for example, voted to unionize in early April 2022. While their employer is contesting the vote, the impact is already spreading to other workplaces, including many workers in New Jersey who have said they plan on holding votes to unionize. If you feel you have been subjected to unlawful practices in the workplace in violation of state or federal law, please contact a New Jersey employment lawyer today.

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects workers’ rights to engage in activities related to union organizing and collective bargaining. It also protects the rights of workers who do not want to join a union to refrain from these types of activities. Section 8(a) of the statute states that employers may not interfere with union organizing activities. In § 8(b), the statute prohibits unions from “restrain[ing] or coerc[ing]” employees with regard to organizing or membership. Section 9 establishes procedures for employees to vote on forming a union or joining an existing union, and for a union to become the employees’ official representative.

Collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) that require employers to hire union members, known as “closed shop” agreements, are invalid under the NLRA. Some states, known as “right-to-work” states, also prohibit “union shop” agreements, which require employees to join the union once they have been hired. At least twenty-eight states have some form of right-to-work laws as of early 2022. New Jersey is not among them. A CBA between a union and an employer in New Jersey may require union membership. This type of CBA addresses the “free rider” problem, in which employees who are not union members still benefit from the union’s work.

About twenty percent of the U.S. workforce belonged to a union in 1983. In 2021, that figure had fallen to 10.3 percent. The number of petitions for union representation filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), however, rose by more than fifty percent from October 2021 to March 2022. This increase suggests a significant surge in labor organizing activity among workers. The recent election on Staten Island is a major part of this trend.

Workers at a warehouse operated by one of the country’s largest companies voted in favor of forming an independent union on April 1. The vote came after a long campaign that began near the beginning of the pandemic as a protest for workplace safety. More than 2,600 of the facility’s approximately 8,000 employees voted in favor of unionizing. The employer has filed an objection with the NLRB with allegations that include coercive behavior by union organizers towards employees prior to the vote. The union has until late April to respond to the employer’s objections.

The employment lawyers at the Resnick Law Group represent workers in New Jersey and New York who have experienced a variety of unlawful practices in the workplace in violation of state and federal employment law. To schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team, please contact us today online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997.

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