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Worker Rights

Workers on campus are covered by the National Labor Relations Act and afforded certain rights to join together to improve their wages and working conditions, with or without a union.

Union Activity

Workers have the right to attempt to form a union, including :

  • Forming, or attempting to form, a union on campus;
  • Joining a union whether the union is recognized by the university or not;
  • Assisting a union in organizing your fellow workers;
  • Refusing to do any or all of these things.
  • To be fairly represented by a union

Activity Outside a Union

Workers who are not represented by a union also have rights under the NLRA.  Specifically, the National Labor Relations Board protects the rights of workers to engage in “concerted activity”,  which is when two or more workers take action for their mutual aid or protection regarding terms and conditions of employment.  A single worker may also engage in protected concerted activity if he or she is acting on the authority of other workers, bringing group complaints to the employer’s attention, trying to induce group action, or seeking to prepare for group action.

A few examples of protected concerted activities are:

  • Two or more workers addressing their employer about improving their pay.
  • Two or more workers discussing work-related issues beyond pay, such as safety concerns, with each other.
  • A worker speaking to an employer on behalf of one or more co-workers about improving workplace conditions.

Your Right to Discuss Wages

Under the National Labor Relations Act, workers have the right to communicate with co-workers at their workplace about their wages.  Wages are a vital term and condition of employment, and discussions of wages are often preliminary to organizing or other actions for mutual aid or protection.  

You may have discussions about wages when not at work, when you are on break, and even during work if employees are permitted to have other non-work conversations.  You have these rights whether or not you are represented by a union.

Protected conversations about wages may take on many forms, including having conversations about how much you and your colleagues and managers make, presenting joint requests concerning pay to your employer; organizing a union to raise your wages; approaching an outside union for help in bargaining with your employer over pay; and approaching the National Labor Relations Board for more information on your rights under the NLRA.  

In addition, you have the right to discuss and engage in outside activity with co-workers concerning public issues that clearly may affect your wages – for example, minimum wage or right-to-work laws.   You may also discuss supporting workers who work elsewhere.

You also have the right not to engage in conversations or communications about your wages.

When you and a co-worker have a conversation or communication about your pay, it is unlawful for your employer to punish or retaliate against you in any way for having that conversation.  It is also unlawful for your employer to interrogate you about the conversation, threaten you for having it, or put you under surveillance for such conversations.  Additionally, it is unlawful for the employer to have a work rule, policy, or hiring agreement that prohibits employees from discussing their wages with each other or that requires you to get the employer’s permission to have such discussions.

Learn more about the NLRA at the Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee