Americans are political citizens, and we know our political rights, such as the right to vote and the right to free speech. But we are also workers, and we have workplace rights. Unfortunately, many of us aren’t familiar with these rights. And that’s a shame: Our workplace rights offer us considerable scope to pressure employers into treating us with dignity and respect, including through speaking out and taking collective action to solve problems at work. Part of EWOC’s mission is to help workers change their lives for the better by providing education on what these rights are and how to wield them with power and precision.
The right to engage in concerted activity was won through decades of militant labor organizing, and was codified in 1935 with the National Labor Relations Act. Concerted activity is any activity in which two or more workers discuss workplace issues and/or take collective action to pressure their employer into addressing those issues, such as by conceding workplace improvements and wage demands. Common ways that workers can exercise their right to concerted activity include discussing working conditions with your coworkers, circulating a petition for improvements or union representation, addressing your boss with your concerns, reporting your concerns to a government agency, addressing the media with your concerns, and collectively refusing to work. Under the NLRA, it is illegal for your boss to interfere with any of these activities.
The right to concerted activity does have some limits. You can lose protection by saying things about your employer that are egregiously offensive or knowingly and maliciously false, or by publicly disparaging your employer’s products or services without relating your complaints to any labor controversy. So if you want to leverage your right to organize, you should know how to make the biggest impact with your coworkers, how to minimize the risk of illegal retaliation (as well as how to secure justice if this does occur) and how to deal with the limits of this right. To learn how to do this with your coworkers and to receive support when you do it, contact one of our organizers today!
Image: Roosevelt signs the National Labor Relations Act into law, July 5th, 1935