Washington Unions laws & HR compliance analysis

Washington Unions: What you need to know

The right of workers in private employment to form unions and bargain collectively with their employers is guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and related federal laws. The NLRA is preemptive, meaning that it supersedes state law in the areas that it covers. However, in areas not covered by the NLRA, such as the rights of public employees and the rights of private employees who are not engaged in interstate commerce, the states are free to make their own provisions.
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It is the public policy of Washington to allow employees to organize, bargain collectively, and participate in activities for mutual aid and protection (WA Rev. Code Sec. 49.32.020). The state also has a provision legalizing the existence of unions (WA Rev. Code Sec. 49.36.010).
The Washington Supreme Court has explained that employees' right to engage in concerted activities is limited to organizing to improve working conditions, such as wages, benefits, production quotas, layoffs and recalls, and rest breaks (Briggs v. Nova Services, 213 P.3d 910 (Wash. 2009)). In this case, several employees were discharged after they attempted to have their employer's executive director removed. They claimed that their discharge was illegal because they had engaged in statutorily protected concerted activities. The Court disagreed, holding that the employee's right to organize to improve working conditions did not extend to usurping an employer's right to choose its own management team. The Court found that the employees, in reality, were making a request based on personal dissatisfaction with the director's management style. Gripes about personal preferences are not protected.
The federal law leaves to the ...

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