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This week's episode of "The Good Wife" took a look at more perfect unions -- labor unions, that is. But did the dramatic depiction of unionizing jibe with actual labor union law?
In "A More Perfect Union," Alicia's mother volunteers her daughter's services in an employee contract dispute. When the employees refuse to sign new employment contracts that don't pay them overtime, their employer (Blowtorch) tries to terminate them.
Cary informs the Blowtorch workers that they're "at will" employees and can be fired at any time -- unless they're working to form a union.
So in the span of 24 hours, the Blowtorch workers scramble to unionize through a vote. But to Alicia's dismay, Chum Hum -- a Lockhart/Gardner client -- buys Blowtorch for its intellectual property at a low price, leaving the unionized workers unemployed after all.
Is this really how unions work?
Rules regarding labor unions vary by state, but they generally stem from the same source: the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA governs the rights and responsibilities of both employees and employers when it comes to labor unions. Though public employees, independent contractors, and a few other workers aren't protected by the NLRA, at-will employees generally are covered.
If employees -- even at-will employees -- are fired when they're trying to unionize, it's considered a violation of a protected concerted activity under the NLRA.
When employees try to form a union, employers can't interfere with that process, coerce employees not to join, or threaten or retaliate against them because of their participation. Another big no-no for employers is to promise or deny benefits based on how they vote in a union election.
Kalinda learns that Robyn, who has only been with the law firm for a month, receives health care even though she doesn't. The all-female team of assistants also instigate an office uprising when they realize that they deserve to get paid overtime.
Not knowing where you stand in a company as far as wage, hour, and benefits go is a very common issue. You may want to consider speaking with an experienced labor lawyer if you think this might be happening to you and your colleagues.
What did you think of this week's episode of "The Good Wife"? Is the show guilty of making any legal mistakes? Check back here for more legal recaps of "The Good Wife," and send us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #TheGoodWife.
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