Know Your Rights: Democratic Voice In the Workplace

Union representation has dramatically changed our legal relationship with Columbia College. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)—the federal law regulating unions in the private sector—is based on the principle of a representative democracy in the workplace. It restricts the “at will” power of the employer and provides employees the opportunity to have a democratic voice in decisions affecting their employment.

Prior to winning collective bargaining rights, almost all decisions related to our employment were determined solely by Columbia College. Policies regarding wages, hours, benefits and working conditions were the prerogative of the College and could be changed “at will” at anytime without our input. We did not even have a right to representation if any of us were called into a meeting facing possible disciplinary action. We could be suspended or fired without due process.

Now that we have union representation, the unilateral decision-making authority of the College with regards to our employment is sharply restricted. Under the NLRA, all policy matters regarding our employment are mandatory subjects of bargaining. In other words, the College can no longer dictate employment policies; it must bargain in “good faith” with our democratically elected union representatives. The College cannot make any changes until bargaining has been concluded. We also have Weingarten Rights—a right to a representative of our choosing if called into a disciplinary meeting by an administrator. We now have a real voice in all decision-making.

The NLRA also requires that unions operate along democratic principles. Rank and file members have a right to hold office, elect officers, ratify bargaining agreements and participate fully in union activities.

Our union provides all of us a great opportunity but to make it work we need your support and participation. Join USofCC now!

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