Do I have an employment law violation case?

Free Case Evaluation - Our full time staff is ready to evaluate your case submission and will respond in a timely manner.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) Made Simple

The National Labor Relations Act

Our federal labor laws are essential to preserving employee rights in workplaces across the United States. The longstanding National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is one of the most important laws.

This page provides an essential guide to the National Labor Relations Act, from the areas it covers to how it holds employers accountable. We want to ensure that everyone is fully informed of their employment rights.

Unfortunately, many employers do not treat their workers properly. Some even break the law. If you read through our NLRA guide and believe that your boss or company has violated the law, you may be able to file a lawsuit, and we are here to help.

If you need legal advice, contact our top-rated employment law attorneys at Bisnar Chase for a free consultation today.

NLRA Law Resources

What is the National Labor Relations Act in Simple Terms?

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is a piece of legislation that was passed into law in 1935. It is also sometimes referred to as the Wagner Act.

Put simply, it is a law that gives employees the right to form trade unions and fight for their rights together. It also guarantees workers the right to engage in collective bargaining with their employer and take collective action, such as going on strike.

This means that employees can band together and take action as a single, more powerful force rather than taking on large companies as individuals.

It is in the company’s best interest to have a harmonious and productive relationship between employers and workers.

The NLRA was designed to level the playing field between employers and workers. The idea is that it eliminates particularly unfair practices and stops management from taking advantage of their employees by giving staff more power when it comes to bargaining.

A revolutionary law, the NLRA has become a cornerstone of fair employment across the U.S.

Our law firm, Bisnar Chase, is a top-rated handler of employment claims and workplace violations. This page provides comprehensive information about the National Labor Relations Act – including real-world examples of its use – to ensure that you are fully informed of your employment rights.

What Does the National Labor Relations Act Do?

The NLRA law clearly defines what workers are and are not allowed to do when it comes to labor action and reform. The key aspects of the law are:

Unions: Under the NLRA, workers are allowed to unionize. A union is an organization made up of at least two employees who join forces to work toward common interests. The union can fight for labor rights on behalf of its members. This could include negotiating salary raises and benefits or protecting employees against termination or unfair rules.

Collective Bargaining: Collective bargaining is the process of employers negotiating with company management through their union. The negotiations often regard pay, benefits, hours and leave, safety policies, work/life balance, and more. Negotiating as a group gives the employees more power to secure fair results.

Collective Action: When initial negotiations fail, it is sometimes necessary for employees to take action to try to force the hand of their employers. It is known as collective action when employees combine to do this together. It is far more effective than a single worker doing anything. The most common form of collective action is striking, when employees refuse to work for a set period. In some professions, collective actions such as striking can cause operations to grind to a halt and massively affect the company’s bottom line. This is a powerful negotiating tactic for workers.

Banning Unfair Practices: Unfair labor practices are banned by the NLRA. These include interfering with employee rights and associated negotiations and discussions (even if a formal union does not exist), interfering with forming a union-like organization, and discriminating against union members.

Origins of the National Labor Relations Act

To fully understand the NLRA law and its impact, we must first delve into how and why it was formed.

It can be traced back to a major strike action involving the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, which operated steel plants, coal mines, and iron mines across several states.

The Colorado Coalfield War was a bloody period in history before employment rights were written into law. At the time, around 1913, many miners were underpaid. They were also involved in a series of dangerous accidents, while few lawsuits were filed because the company tampered with the legal process.

In the end, workers were left with no alternative but to strike. They did so, but the company hit back. Anti-strike militia funded by the company attacked miners, who armed themselves and hit back. About 200 people died, and several mines were destroyed. The cost of the strike was estimated to be about $500 million in today’s dollars.

Eventually, the government was forced to step in and end the strike with no concessions made to workers.

But this was the start of a larger movement. The carnage forced a rethink into workers’ rights, and the legislature was eventually drawn up and signed into law in 1935.

NLRA Laws for Unions

The NLRA does not solely target employers. It also sets out rules for unions and other labor organizations. Unions are not allowed to:

  • Refuse to negotiate with the employer.
  • In some cases, engage in secondary strikes or boycotts.
  • Charge excessive union dues.
  • Strike without giving a reasonable notice period. This depends on the sector, applying mainly to high-importance businesses, such as healthcare or public transport.

Union bosses must be just as aware of the NLRA rules as employers to ensure they are legally compliant and can properly represent their clients.

Why is the National Labor Relations Act Important?

The NLRA is a vital piece of legislation in the landscape of U.S. labor law. It is among the most important employment laws because it secures fundamental rights that have a profound impact on workplaces across the United States.

It is not the individual rules themselves that make the NLRA so crucial. Being able to join a union or benefit from collective bargaining may not seem like game-changing laws in isolation. But these rules are building blocks toward creating better working conditions.

Allowing workers to seek better conditions without the fear of retaliation levels the playing field. It gives employees their own bargaining chips rather than simply having to accept whatever conditions are forced upon them by their employers. This has been shown to greatly impact company harmony and productivity.

Who Is and Is Not Covered by the National Labor Relations Act?

The NLRA does not give every employee in the United States the right to unionize. There are exceptions. And a person’s unionization rights may vary by the state they reside in, just to complicate things further.

But we break it down and make it as simple as possible. Those who DO fall under the NLRA include:

  • The National Labor Relations Act provides federal protection for almost all private-sector employees. This means that anyone working at a private company has federal protection.
  • Workers at the United States Postal Service.

Those without NLRA protection include:

  • Government employees (including federal, state, and local governments).
  • Most agricultural workers (if their company solely employs agricultural workers).
  • Railroad and airline workers. They fall under the jurisdiction of the Railway Labor Act. They may still be able to unionize and strike but will be governed by slightly different rules under the RLA.
  • Supervisors – such as people in or adjacent to management positions, according to company structure.

There are more than 21 million government employees across the U.S., and moves have been made in recent years to extend the NLRA’s coverage to include those workers. However, for now, the majority of protected workers are private sector.

This means that the employees at a government-run hospital may be unable to unionize. But the workers at a privately-run healthcare center could.

That said, it also varies by state. In California, government workers do not get federal protection under the NLRA. But they are still allowed to unionize, according to a statute passed in 1968 (the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act).

For example, a non-management employee at a California school district could join a union even though they are a government employee. California was only the second state in the country to allow public sector collective bargaining.

What is the National Labor Relations Board?

The National Labor Relations Board is a government agency that was formed according to the NLRA. It is responsible for enforcing the laws set out by the National Labor Relations Act.

The board acts as an appellate tribunal. It is made up of five people who are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. They each serve a five-year term and are supported by a General Counsel – a dedicated attorney offering legal expertise who serves a four-year term in the position.

The board is responsible for reviewing concerns over illegal acts or disputes involving the NLRA laws and making a legal ruling.

Its jurisdiction is limited to the federally protected parties outlined above – private sector workers and postal workers.

The National Labor Relations Act Discussing Pay

Some companies might try to encourage employees to keep information on their salary and bonuses to themselves. This is an attempt to keep closer control over wage increases and to stop discontent from growing among workers.

For example, if employees discuss their pay, one or more may discover that their colleagues are making more money than them and demand a pay rise. They could also become disgruntled and be less effective in their role.

You can see why employers hope that this will not happen. But they do not have the power to stop workers from discussing their terms of employment.

Employers could request that their staff should not discuss pay via work email, using office equipment, or on company time. But it is illegal for them to attempt to ban discussions outright.

According to the National Labor Relations Act, people have the right to discuss their wages. This is often a key part of the discussions when organizing collective action.

Real-world Examples of the NLRA in Action

Collective action and bargaining are responsible for some major victories for workers historically and in recent years.

Below are some of the most significant strikes in United States history, as well as some of the recent high-profile examples.

1946 – United Mine Workers of America: About 400,000 mine workers went on strike for 59 days, seeking health benefits and safer working conditions. It led to the Krug-Lewis Agreement, which created health and welfare funds for miners.

1959 – Steel Strike: 500,000 steelworkers downed tools for four months. The strike resulted in higher wages and a contract clause protecting jobs and hours.

1970 – Postal Strike: More than 200,000 postal workers joined a strike that started in New York but spread nationwide. It resulted in an 8% pay rise and allowed postal workers to be covered by the NLRA laws.

1997 – USPS: 185,000 delivery workers went on strike for pay, pensions, and safeguarding. Public support was high, and their demands were met after two weeks.

These case studies all occurred after the NLRA was installed, though strike actions also happened before the law’s introduction, such as the Steel Strike of 1919 and the Railroad Shop Workers Strike of 1922, which involved a combined 750,000 workers.

Recent High-Profile Strikes

2012 – NHL lockout: There is a long history of collective bargaining between athletes and sports franchises. The NBA, NFL, MLB, and MLS have all had player strikes, but the last lockout to disrupt a season was in the National Hockey League in 2012-13. The NHL Players Association (NHLPA) went head-to-head with the league over salary cap limits, contract lengths, and revenue sharing, among other issues. Half of the season was canceled before a collective bargaining agreement was struck. During the strike, many of the players joined teams in Europe temporarily.

2016 – Verizon Strike: Nearly 40,000 Verizon Communications workers walked out over a contract dispute. Concerns were raised over the outsourcing of jobs, pension caps, and cuts to benefits. The strike was projected to cost Verizon about $200 million in profits, and an agreement was reached after about six weeks.

2023 – LA Schools Strike: A three-day strike involved more than 65,000 education workers across the Los Angeles area in early 2023. Classes were canceled for nearly 430,000 students as staff protested for better pay. The final agreement included a 30% pay increase, retroactive pay, bonuses, guaranteed hours, and a higher minimum wage.

Not all collective action is successful. For example, a strike in California by Kaiser Permanente staff in 2021 ended after three months without a new contract agreement.

Statistics: Is Collective Bargaining More Effective?

Studies show that union members have a higher average pay than those not involved in unions. They also have better benefits and working conditions, generally speaking.

In 2022, full-time salaried workers in unions had median weekly earnings of $1,216, compared to $1,029 for those non-unionized.

A graph showing that union workers earn about 19% more than non-union workers.

While the gap is not quite as large as it was in 2019, it still shows nearly a 19% difference between average wage levels.

The stats indicate that it made a particular impact in leveling the playing field for minorities, narrowing the wage gap. Other key examples include:

  • After unionizing, Las Vegas hotel dishwashers make $4 per hour more than the national average.
  • More than 5,000 janitorial workers in Houston received a 47% pay rise and more guaranteed hours through their first union contract in 2006.
  • The median hourly wage is projected to be about 8% higher without the dwindling union numbers.

Why is the NLRA Called the Wagner Act?

The National Labor Relations Act is also known as the Wagner Act because Senator Robert Wagner was one of the driving forces behind its creation.

Senator Wagner was in President Franklin Roosevelt’s inner circle and became a strong voice on labor issues. He was a leader in crafting the NLRA in 1935, as well as backing the Social Security Act of 1935 and the Housing Act of 1937.

What Do You Do When Your Employer Has Violated Labor Laws?

There are several steps that you should take if you believe that your rights as an employee have been violated.

If those rights fall under the National Labor Relations Act, you can report the violation to the NLRB. To do so, you must:

  • File your case with the NLRB regional office.
  • File within six months of the violation.

Click here to file a case with the National Labor Relations Board.

Your complaint will be assigned to an information officer, and an investigation will be conducted.

Next, you should contact an employment attorney. Even if your claim does not involve an infringement on the NLRA, a labor lawyer can help you file a claim and hold your employer accountable for any wrongdoing.

The Best Employment Lawyer Near Me

If your workplace rights are violated, you need the right law firm behind you. With a dedicated employment law department and a track record of success and client satisfaction, we believe that Bisnar Chase is the top choice for your claim.

  • Our firm has attorneys that focus solely on employment and class action cases.
  • We have a 99% success rate.
  • Bisnar Chase has recovered more than $800 million for our clients.
  • We have been operating successfully since 1978, with decades of experience.

Our team handles everything from wrongful termination and workplace harassment claims to wage and hour cases. Trust us to hold your employer accountable and to secure maximum compensation for any wrongdoing.

Contact our top-rated employment lawyers today for a free consultation. Call (800) 561-4887 to speak to a representative by phone. You can also use our website live chat or send us an email. We look forward to hearing from you.

Employment Law Attorneys Near Me

Employees have rights, and the National Labor Relations Act is a key piece of legislation when it comes to protecting and preserving those rights.

If your workplace rights have been violated, you need a top-rated employment law firm on your side. Bisnar Chase handles everything from wage and hour claims to meal and rest break violations. Contact one of our California employment attorneys for a free consultation.

Related Employment News

U.S. Supreme Court Limits California Labor Law That Protects Workers’ Rights

New Protections to Save Undocumented Workers from Retaliation

FREE Case Evalution

Our staff will evaluate your case submission and respond in a timely manner.

Case Results

  • 1


    Consumer Class Action

  • 2


    Motor Vehicle Accident

  • 3


    Auto Defect – Seat Manufacturers, Johnson Controls

  • 4


    Motorcycle Accident

  • 5


    Defective Seatback

  • 6


    Bicycle Accident

Client Reviews

Bisnar Chase Google Review

Bisnar Chase is a model #veteranowned business that is purpose-driven — showing the power of patriotism in action! Because of Bisnar Chase, low-income veterans will be able to forge new futures at home through pro bono legal care. Team Veterans Legal Institute is grateful to have Bisnar Chase as a sponsor for Lawyers for Warriors — supporting the promise to be there for our veterans when they need it most.

KellyAnn Romanych
Bisnar Chase Google Review

I had an attorney for my truck accident who wanted almost 60% of what my case was worth. Worse than that, he was willing to settle for $5,000.00 with the insurance company even though I was still treating for whiplash and back pain. I contacted Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys because a friend recommended them. My case was handled exceptionally well! I was being kept notified throughout the whole process and only when I was comfortable with the settlement figure, did my attorney Gavin Long, accept it. I felt like we were working together and I felt listened to. I would refer Bisnar Chase to anyone who wants quality over quantity!

Lauren B
Bisnar Chase Reviews

Bisnar Chase has been amazing with me through my lawsuit. I felt real compassion for my case and I was given their very best to make sure I was well taken care of. In addition to the great service given during my case, Bisnar Chase helped me get my son to his invited USA Football Team camp in Texas. They immediately offered to help fund the trip and are so supportive of his journey. I felt Kristi is just as excited for him as I am with this opportunity. Kristi has been an absolute delight to talk with. Bisnar Chase is more than I ever expected I could get in an attorney. I would recommend them to anyone!

Christina Del Real
Bisnar Chase Google Review

Great people in this office, everyone was really helpful explaining everything. I was referred by my aunt for my car accident in October and the case went pretty fast. No problems and very professional. I was kept in the loop thru the whole process and was able to get a better settlement than my insurance company said I would. I can’t really compare them to other law firms because it was the first time I had to use an attorney, but my bad experience with the car accident was handled as well as I could have hoped.

P. Montgomery

Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys, LLP

1301 Dove St STE 120, Newport Beach, CA 92660


Have a Question that wasn’t answered here?