Find a Labor Law Lawyer

Labor law is the practice of employment-related law as it pertains to unions. Labor law is intended to help employers and employees bargain, while keeping the negotiations fair.

A union is an organized group or association of employees, banded together to bargain with employers for improved pay, benefits and working conditions. Unions are commonly referred to as labor unions. Generally, employees in unions have similar job titles or work in a shared industry and pay dues to the union organization. When labor negotiations are in progress, representatives of the union conduct and manage the negotiation process and members of the union vote on their proposed decisions. Often, bargaining between employers and unions is known as collective bargaining.

Labor is legislated by federal and state regulations. The 1935 National Labor Relations Act governs union-based bargaining and interstate commerce. The act also established a board to hear disputes between labor and employers, known as the National Labor Relations Board, and a council to prosecute violators of the federal labor laws. Those businesses not involved in interstate commerce are generally subject to state labor laws, which vary. Federal employees are exempted from the statutes of the National Labor Relations Act and are instead governed by Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Act. Railway and airline workers are governed by a different federal act.

Labor attorneys assist with writing labor law legislation as well as with managing interpretation of the law. When labor law is violated, labor attorneys are involved with the defense and prosecution during any litigation that may ensue. For example, if an employer refuses to honor the terms of a contract agreement, the union may choose to sue the employer.

Often, labor lawyers are employed as negotiators or arbitrators when collective bargaining is underway. Arbiters are neutral parties who hold hearings on disputes to help two disagreeing sides reach a fair and equitable agreement. The employer and employee agree prior to entering arbitration that they will both be bound by any decision the arbiter reached; this process is often known as binding arbitration. This decision is generally enforceable in both state and federal law.

Once an agreement is reached, labor law specialists draft agreements and help to ensure compliance from both sides of a dispute.

To select a labor attorney, it is important to consider whether the business in question does business across state lines or only within one state, in order to determine whether the National Labor Relations Act applies. If it does, a federal labor attorney may be most appropriate as opposed to a lawyer who is a state labor law specialist. If the employer is a railroad or airline, a specialist in The Railway Labor Act should be consulted.

Individuals rarely need labor attorneys as labor lawyers are usually retained by unions and large corporations. An exception would be an individual who has a dispute with a union and seeks an attorney because his union is not properly representing his interests.

Individuals who need attorneys for non-union related employment issues should seek an employment law specialist instead.

By Ann MacDonald           

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