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Frequently Asked Questions - NLRB

The NLRA is a federal law that grants employees the right to form or join unions; engage in protected, concerted activities to address or improve working conditions; or refrain from engaging in these activities. For more information, see our Employee Rights page.

The NLRB is an independent federal agency created to enforce the National Labor Relations Act.  Headquartered in Washington DC, it has regional offices across the country where employees, employers and unions can file charges alleging illegal behavior, or file petitions seeking an election regarding union representation. For more information, see our What We Do page.

If your question is about unpaid wages, safety on the job, employment discrimination, workers' compensation, or a number of other work-related issues, you will have to contact a different government agency. Website links and phone numbers are available on this Related Agencies page.

The NLRA applies to most private sector employers, including manufacturers, retailers, private universities, and health care facilities.  The NLRA does not apply to federal, state, or local governments; employers who employ only agricultural workers; and employers subject to the Railway Labor Act (interstate railroads and airlines). See this Jurisdictional Standards page for more information.

Most employees in the private sector are covered under the NLRA.  The law does not cover government employees, agricultural laborers, independent contractors, and supervisors (with limited exceptions). 

Employees at union and non-union workplaces have the right to help each other by sharing information, signing petitions, and seeking to improve wages and working conditions in a variety of ways. For more information on this aspect of the law, including a description of recent cases, see our Protected Concerted Activity page.

Employers and unions may not restrain or coerce employees who are exercising their rights under the NLRA.  In a union workplace, the employer and union are obligated by law to bargain in good faith with each other over terms and conditions of employment, either to agreement or impasse. More information is available on our Employer/Union Obligations page.

Charges must be filed in a Regional Office, usually with the help of an Information Officer, within six months of the occurrence. The Regional Office will investigate the charge and, if found meritorious, will issue a complaint.  For forms and more information, see our Investigate Charges page.

To start the election process, a petition must be filed with the nearest NLRB Regional Office showing interest in the union (or interest in decertifying the union) from at least 30% of employees. NLRB agents will then investigate to make sure the Board has jurisdiction and there are no existing labor contracts that would bar an election. More information is available on our Conduct Elections page.

If a union is selected as the representative of employees, the employer and union are required to meet at reasonable times to bargain in good faith about wages, hours, and other mandatory subjects. Even after a contract expires, the parties must bargain in good faith for a successor contract, or the termination of the agreement, while terms of the expired contract continue. Further information on good faith bargaining is available on our Employer/Union Obligations page.

The question of union dues is subject to federal and state laws and court rulings. The NLRA allows unions and employers to enter into agreements that require all employees in a bargaining unit to pay union dues. However, more than 20 states have banned such agreements by passing so called “right to work” laws. More information is available on our Employer/Union Obligations page.

Strikes and picketing are protected by the NLRA under certain conditions and to varying degrees. For important information on the rules regarding strike activity, see this Right to Strike page. A union cannot strike or picket an employer to force it to stop doing business with another employer who is the primary target of a labor dispute. At worksites with more than one employer, such as a construction site, picketing is only permitted if the protest is clearly directed exclusively at the primary employer.

To request public records under the Freedom of Information Act, see our FOIA page which includes a sample FOIA letter and an electronic request form.

If you have a question that isn't on this list, you may send a question by email, or contact your local NLRB office ( click here for a map of offices ) to speak with an information officer.

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