A basic overview of how unions work

Many New York workers have the right to form or participate in a union. They are designed to protect the rights of its members, and collective bargaining is governed by the National Labor Relations Act. The unions themselves are overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Working conditions are determined by the terms of deals bargained between the labor union and management. Those terms are what each side will turn to first for guidance if a dispute arises.

Collective bargaining agreements can cover a variety of workplace issues such as how much workers will be paid or what benefits they will receive. It can also cover general workplace conditions and the type of health and safety standards employers will be held to. The NLRA states that management is only allowed to negotiate with the representative chosen by the workers.

Unions may have other officers who are elected by the members themselves. It is common that a company will have workers who belong to a union in addition to those who don't. Those who do belong to the union will generally be required to pay membership dues. In exchange, they will generally enjoy greater protection against unfair discipline as well as the ability to see copies of the current collective bargaining agreement.

If an employee has union representation, he or she may have access to legal advice in an employment dispute. This may be helpful for an individual who isn't sure how to handle a rude comment, a sudden demotion, or actions that may be considered discriminatory. In the event that an employer takes an action that goes against the terms of a collective bargaining agreement, a grievance may be filed. That grievance may be settled through mediation, arbitration, or other means.

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