Your Rights to Unionize

Employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act are afforded certain rights to join together to improve their wages and working conditions, with or without a union. Here is some information on your rights, provided by the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees this process for most workers.

Union Activity

Employees have the right to attempt to form a union where none currently exists.

Examples of employee rights include:

  • Forming, or attempting to form, a union in your workplace;
  • Joining a union whether the union is recognized by your employer or not;
  • Assisting a union in organizing your fellow employees;
  • Refusing to do any or all of these things; and
  • Having the right to be fairly represented by a union.

Employees who are not represented by a union also have rights under the NLRA. The National Labor Relations Board protects the rights of employees to engage in “concerted activity,” which is when two or more employees take action for their mutual aid or protection regarding terms and conditions of employment. A single employee also may engage in protected concerted activity if he or she is acting on the authority of other employees, 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 employees addressing their employer about improving their pay.
  • Two or more employees discussing work-related issues beyond pay, such as safety concerns, with each other.
  • An employee speaking to an employer on behalf of one or more co-workers about improving workplace conditions.

Who Is Covered by the NLRA?

Most employees in the private sector are covered by the NLRA. However, the act specifically excludes individuals who are:

  • Employed by federal, state or local government.
  • Employed as agricultural laborers.
  • Employed in the domestic service of any person or family in a home.
  • Employed by a parent or spouse.
  • Employed as an independent contractor.
  • Employed as a supervisor (supervisors who have been discriminated against for refusing to violate the NLRA may be covered).
  • Employed by an employer subject to the Railway Labor Act, such as railroads and airlines.
  • Employed by any other person who is not an employer as defined in the NLRA.

People with this employment status may have rights to unionize through other labor laws. 

More Information on Your Rights

Check out the NLRB interactive section on the laws that are protected for employee rights.

Contact the NLRB Public Affairs Office at 202-273-1991 or one of the 26 regional offices.