Employee Associations: What you need to know

Over the past several decades, countless employers have formed employment committees, with both management and employee members, in an attempt to involve employees in the decision-making process more deeply. This has been difficult, however, because the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) guarantees employees the right to organize their own “conditions of employment” groups and control them solely. Unions have attacked many of these “shared-governance committees” as illegal labor organizations. In several cases, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has supported these allegations, and appeals courts have affirmed the Board's decisions.
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Section 8(a)(2) of the NLRA makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it. Section 2(5) of the NLRA defines “labor organization” as any organization or employee representation committee that exists for the purpose of dealing with employers about grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours, or conditions of work.
When a union challenges an employee committee as an illegal labor organization, the NLRB conducts a two-step inquiry. First, it determines whether the committee is a labor organization. The key phrase in Section 2(5) is “dealing with.” If the employee committee exists for the purpose of negotiating or meeting with the employer on “terms and conditions of employment” issues, the committee is probably a labor organization. If the committee is deemed a labor organization, the next step in the inquiry is whether the employer "dominates" the committee. Employers should be very cautious in the formation ...

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