With even college football players moving to unionize, small business owners may be wondering: Can my workers unionize too?
Here's a basic legal breakdown of when small business workers can unionize:
Only Employees Can Form Unions
Unions 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 Excluded
Some 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 who are engaged in interstate commerce, and that covers 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 an employment discrimination or wrongful termination suit. However, if you feel that a union vote was somehow improper or tainted, you can request review by the NLRB.
Are you concerned about your employees unionizing? Consider consulting an experienced employment attorney about your options.
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