Can Small Business Workers Unionize?
Only Employees Can Form UnionsUnions exist as a way for employees to collectively bargain with their employers and protect their rights in the workplace. Unions cannot be formed by independent contractors, although businesses should be aware of the legal distinction between "employees" and "independent contractors." There have been cases in which the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that some unpaid workers are, in fact, employees, meaning they may be able to unionize.
Some Employees May Be ExcludedSome classes of workers may be considered employees by the NLRB but excluded from forming labor unions. For example, workers in the agricultural or domestic services industries may not be able to unionize. Managers and supervisors may also be excluded from unionizing, even in a large private business.
How Many Employees Are Needed to Form a Union?Even if your business only contains a handful of employees in non-supervisory roles, they may unionize. The National Labor Relations Act applies to all private employers engaged in interstate commerce, covering pretty much every small business in the United States. Under the NRLA, an appropriate "bargaining unit" necessary to form a union can be made up of two or more eligible employees who "share a community of interest."
Can You Stop a Union From Forming?Generally no. Forming a collective bargaining unit (i.e., a union) is a protected activity under the NLRA. Firing or even reprimanding an employee for attempting to exercise her labor rights can lead to employment discrimination or wrongful termination suit. However, if you feel that a union vote was somehow improper or tainted, you can request a review by the NLRB. Are you concerned about your employees unionizing? Consider consulting an experienced employment attorney about your options.
- Find Employment Law -- Employer Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory)
- Can My Employees Form a Union? (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
- NLRB Poster Rule Invalid, Federal Courts Rule (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
- Learn About Our DIY Business Formation Services (FindLaw Forms & Services)
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