Labor unions are legally recognized organizations of employees who have joined forces to pursue and maintain fair wages and working conditions. Through the use of processes such as collective bargaining, union members work together to secure better wages and benefits; improved working conditions; and safe and fair workplace policies and procedures. Unions also represent their members in disputes with employers, such as those arising from contract violations. The National Labor Relations Act, enacted by Congress in 1935 to protect the rights of both employees and employers, encourages union formation and gives most private sector working people in the United States the right to form and join unions. Comparable laws have been enacted in most states authorizing unionization by public sector workers.
Both public and private sector labor unions and members turn to specialized labor law attorneys for advice and representation in a wide range of legal matters relating to union formation, governance, and operations. These include union organizing campaigns, collective bargaining negotiations, the application and enforcement of contract terms, grievance and interest arbitration (utilized by certain employees who are prohibited from striking, such as police officers and firefighters), and unfair labor practice proceedings. Additional issues that are typically handled by union-side labor lawyers include day-to-day union operations, union elections, union reporting and record keeping obligations, the formation of political action committees, and staffing and human resources concerns. Unions may also seek legal advice pertaining to employer downsizing, relocations, employer closings, and bankruptcies.
In representing unions and their members, labor law attorneys appear before federal and state courts, administrative agencies, boards, and commissions, such as the National Labor Relations Board. A skilled union-side lawyer is a crucial ally to working people and their families.