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Labor Law by David E. Strecker

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19
© 2011 by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
Chapter 3
Labor Law: Dealing 
with Labor Unions 
and the National 
Labor Relations Act
An Overview of the National Labor 
Relations Act (NLRA)
e three basic statutes comprising the NLRA have been discussed in Chapter 2
(the Wagner Act, Taft–Hartley Act, and Landrum–Grin Act). It helps in under-
standing this statute to think of its most important three sections: 7, 8, and 9.
Section 7 is the core of the law containing the basic rights of employees. Section 8
deals with unfair labor practices, both union and employer. Section 9 contains the
rules on how employees elect unions or decertify unions. Although there are other
sections to this law, these three are the most important by far.
As noted in the previous chapter, this law is enforced by the National Labor
Relations Board (NLRB), which is composed ofve members appointed by the
president and approved by the Senate. ey are appointed to staggered ve-
year terms. e Board usually decides cases in three-member panels where the
majority rules. e Board is somewhat of a political animal. When Democratic
members predominate, decisions predictably favor the unions. e opposite is
true when Republican members are in the majority. As such, the NLRB often
20 ◾  Labor Law: A Basic Guide to the National Labor Relations Act
© 2011 by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
overrules itself, and reliance on a Board decision from years ago can sometimes
be dangerous.
e NLRA also calls for the appointment of a general counsel, the chief pros-
ecutor for the NLRB. is person is also appointed by the president and approved
by the Senate. e term is four years.
Like a lot of other administrative agencies, the NLRB has divided the country
into regions. Currently, there are thirty-two such regions, each of which is headed
by a regional director. ere is also a representative of the general counsel at each
region. Within the region, there are often one or more eld oces. NLRB agents
are not necessarily lawyers, but often they are. Naturally, the general counsel and
his/her sta are mostly composed of attorneys.
e regional director holds quite a bit of power under the regulatory scheme. He
or she makes the initial determination of whether an unfair labor practice charge
will go forward. e regional director also has signicant power in determining
whether employees will be allowed to vote on whether a union can represent them
or whether an existing union will be “kicked out.
e general counsel representative will be the one prosecuting unfair labor
practice charges (even though the regional director makes the determination on
whether a complaint will be issued, subject to appeal if he or she refuses to issue a
complaint).
Although the NLRB is empowered to issue regulations, they have not done
much, at least when compared to other administrative agencies enforcing employ-
ment laws. e EEOC and OSHA, for instance, have issued multitudes of regula-
tions dealing with the smallest details of the laws they enforce. e NLRB, with a
few notable exceptions, has not issued regulations dealing with the substantive law
it enforces. It has, however, issued detailed regulations and guidance on procedural
issues (e.g., how unfair labor practice cases will be tried or how a labor election will
be conducted).
Basic Rights of Employees
Section 7 of the NLRA is short, but important. It sets forth the rights that employ-
ees have under the law. e section reads as follows:
Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or
assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives
of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the
purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and
shall also have the right to refrain from any or all such activities except
to the extent that such right may be aected by an agreement requiring
membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment as
authorized in Section 8(a)(3) [Section 158(a)(3) of this title].

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