A general guide to protected & unprotected worker activity

No guide to 'protected' activities could ever be completely comprehensive and accurate. The way the law is interpreted changes, and the way it has been changing recently is not good. Consult a labor law attorney for more information.

Generally speaking an employer may not take actions that interfere with workers' exercise of Section 7 rights - for example, by maintaining and enforcing a rule against any discussions among workers about working conditions or engaging in surveillance of workers protected activities. An employer may not take action against a worker because of protected concerted activity.

Section 7 protects only 'concerted activity'. Union organizing is concerted by its nature. An individual's 'reasonable and honest' assertion of rights in the contract is protected concerted activity.

What workers can do

Wear supportive slogans - on pins, buttons, arm bands, ribbons, hats, or t-shirts - as long as they do not interfere with safety or quality and are not disruptive of production and do not cause discipline problems. Slogans most likely to be considered disruptive are those directed at scabs. Less likely to be disruptive are those against company polices and positions.

Hold rallies and information meetings during lunch and break times - non-working times.

Conduct regular and frequent union meetings with lots of participation to show solidarity and increase communication.

File and process grievances.

Distribute leaflets and newsletters during non-working times in non-working areas.

Boycott company-sponsored picnics, parties, or teams; in other words non-mandatory company meetings.

Conduct informational picketing, public rallies, and community hearings to generate and build solidarity and support.

Work to rule; follow specific instructions and directions and ask questions when such instructions are lacking.

Work to the clock; do not hurry to finish tasks before the shift ends.

Refuse to work voluntary overtime.

Decline call-ins when on call if there is a proper reason for doing so.

Request a committeeperson when a worker is about to be disciplined or asked to participate in a disciplinary interview; directed to perform work for which there has not been proper training (but not refuse an order to work); directed to perform work which a reasonable person would find to be immediately unsafe (but do not refuse an order to work); or a worker has a question concerning the terms and conditions of employment and how they are applied.

What workers cannot do

Issue leaflets or statements disparaging the quality of the company's products without relating the statements to employment conditions or distribute leaflets which are maliciously false or offensive.

Engage in intermittent work stoppages. A series of quickie strikes are not protected and subject workers ot discipline or discharge.

Damage company or scab property.

Engage in a partial strike or slowdown by refusing to perform certain tasks while otherwise continuing to work.

Stay at a work station while engaged in a work stoppage.

Refuse a direct order from supervision. Deliberately disobeying a reasonable rule or order is generally unprotected.

Threaten supervisors or co-workers with physical harm. In general, threats or threatening gestures and language, that could coerce or intimidate is unlikely to be protected activity.

Use deliberately and/or maliciously false, abusive, hostile, or extremely profane language in conducting otherwise permissible activities.

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