unfair labor practices (ULPs)

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Unfair Labor Practices: An Overview

Under the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"), there are three broad categories of unfair labor practices ("ULPs").  The three categories of ULPs consist of those under Section 8 of the NLRA.  Section 8(a) lists the ULPs of employers, Section 8(b) lists the ULPs of labor organizations, and 8(c) lists the ULPs that are the result of combined activity of employers and labor organizations.

Unfair Labor Practices of Employers

When an employer interferes with employee rights to organize, form, join, or assist a labor organization, the employer has violated the NLRA.  Section 8(a)(1) prohibits an employer from interfering with employees as they engage in concerted activity.  Section 8(a)(2) prohibits an employer from dominating or assisting a labor union.  Section 8(a)(3) prohibits an employer from discriminating against any worker because of union activity.  Section 8(a)(4) prohibits an employer from punishing a work for filing charges with the Labor Board.  Section 8(a)(5) requires the employer to bargain collectivity in good faith with the union.  

When an employer hinders employees from bargaining collectively, engaging in other concerted activities for mutual aid or protection, or keeps the employee from exercising the right not to participate in any of these activities, the employer has violated the NLRA. By the same token, if an employer threatens to take away an employee's job or benefits if that person should join or vote for a union, the employer will be found in violation of the NLRA as well.

Unfair Labor Practices of Labor Organizations

Section 8(b)(1) prohibits a union from restraining or coercing employees as they exercise their Section 7 rights, such as the right to refrain from concerted activity.  Section 8(b)(2) makes it illegal for a union to cause an employer to discriminate in violation of Section 8(a)(3).  Section 8(b)(3) requires a union to bargain in good faith with the employer. 

Labor unions are prohibited from restraining and coercing employers when the employee is exercising his or her rights.  This prohibition does not impair the rights of a labor organization to prescribe its own rules concerning membership in the labor organization.  Making or enforcing illegal union security agreements or hiring agreements which make as a condition of employment membership in a union violates the NLRA. Even conduct that does not actually restrain or coerce employees but is reasonably calculated to do so is prohibited.

Remedies for Unfair Labor Practices

If an employer or a union commits an ULP, the Board must order the guilty party to cease and desist from the illegal behavior.  If an individual employee is injured by an ULP, the Board may order an employer to compensate the employee.  Compensation can come in the form of reinstatement, pay of lost wages and benefits, and seniority credits.  Remedies do not include losses which may result from the loss of wages, such as the inability to make payments on a car or home.  The Board also regularly orders parties guilty of ULPs to post a notice informing workers of the Board's decision.