The right to join a union can be pivotal in ensuring fair treatment and benefits at your workplace. If you work in Illinois and you want to join a union, you might wonder if your employer can threaten to fire you because of your decision.
In Illinois, as in other states, several laws protect employees’ rights to organize. Understanding these protections can equip you to work through potential opposition and intimidation from your employer.
Legal protection for union membership
The National Labor Relations Act, which applies to most private-sector employers, makes it illegal for your employer to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights to form, join or assist labor organizations.
Thus, your employer cannot legally threaten to fire you or otherwise retaliate against you if you show an interest in joining a union. Actions such as this fall under what the law terms “unfair labor practices.” Under the NLRA, employees who face such practices can report the incident to the National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency tasked with enforcing the law.
When an employer retaliates
If your employer threatens to fire you for wanting to join a union and you report this to the NLRB, the Board will investigate your claim. If the NLRB finds your employer guilty of violating the law, they can order the employer to stop the unfair labor practices and take corrective action, which could include reinstating any employees terminated unlawfully, with back pay.
While the NLRB process can be long and challenging, you have rights and protections under the law that are worth fighting for. Joining a union can improve your working conditions and bargaining power, and you should not let any threats from your employer deter you from exercising this right.