Our Fundamental Rights Under the National Labor Relations Act
Recently we have been challenged by one of our employers in a very serious way. The rights of Musicians of the Las Colinas Symphony have been curtailed with the purpose of exerting power and influence over them at the workplace.
There has been ample recent reporting by Local 72-147 about current disputes with the leadership of this organization: a longtime musician unjustly dismissed, an entire section of the orchestra locked out, contracts purposely miswritten, etc. Most pointedly, 22 members of the orchestra had their season contracts revoked. (Please see the latest update)
Aside from real economic pain inflicted on people, something more basically insidious is going on.
Underneath these actions has been a campaign to undermine
their basic rights under federal law, which are set forth principally in Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act:
Employees have the right to unionize: to self-organization, to form, to join or assist labor organizations
To Bargain Collectively through representatives of their own choosing
To engage in Concerted Activities: that is, when two or more employees act together to improve their terms and conditions of employment
These rights are basic rights of employees, and are central to the power we have to advocate for musicians. We also have the right to seek the protection of them through the processes of the the National Labor Relations Board. Please read more about our ongoing fight to oppose this effort of the LCSO to take away each of these fundamental rights.
Taking the Fight to the NLRB
As the rights of employees are established in the NLRA, the Act also states what is considered violations of those rights, coining the term Unfair Labor Practice (ULP). Section 8a of the Act then lists types of activities that are unlawful for an employer, which include:
Interference with the Employees Rights (listed above) It is forbidden for an employer to “interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of” these basic rights.
Discrimination Against Employees. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate in employment because of an employee’s union activity. Discrimination in this context would include refusing to hire, discharging, demoting, etc.
Refusal to Bargain in Good Faith. It is illegal for an employer to refuse to bargain in good faith about wages and conditions of employment with the representative selected by the employees
When confronted with these violations, we have the right to file charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The Board then investigates the charges, and may follow with legal action if the charges are found to have merit. In response to recent actions of the LCSO, Local 72-147 has responded by filing six charges with the NLRB alleging Unfair Labor Practices in which the LCSO has engaged in a campaign of:
(1) Violating the laws prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees engaged in union activities and protected/concerted activities,
From May 31 to June 3 the LCSO took several actions which arbitrarily punished the musicians who had been engaged in union activities: namely the players committee of the orchestra. Actions were taken which threatened economic retribution if musicians’ representatives did not agree to Management’s proposals for change to the Master Agreement. This situation escalated to the now infamous “partial lockout”.
(2) Making unilateral changes to the Master Agreement and musicians’ contracts as described in the Master Agreement
When Management on its own changed some of the individual contracts back on May 31, they weren’t just targeting individuals for union activity. Management was denying the musicians their federally protected right to bargain these changes. What we describe as “unilateral” occurs when management has done something on its own and denied the employees their rights to “bargain collectively”.
(3) Unlawfully bargaining directly with musicians without the union
An employer is not permitted to bypass a union and deal directly with employees in connection with their terms and conditions of employment. When Management goes directly to an individual to influence him or her in the bargaining process, they are violating the right of the group to have representatives speak for them, representing them as a whole. It may seem benign at times, depending on how it is done, but these actions isolate individuals, undermine their representatives, and are unlawful.
(4) Unlawfully interfering with the bargaining unit and union internal activities
We have the right to manage our organization, have meetings without the fear of Management listening in. It is, in fact, unlawful for a union to allow itself to be “dominated” by an employer, thereby, taking away the undiluted right of the employee to be represented by the union without the employer’s influence. LCSO Management has repeatedly made efforts to influence our internal activities, most recently trying to dictate how we run our players committee elections.
(5) refusing to bargain regarding pay and other rights described in the Master Agreement
Even after requesting to bargain changes to the Master Agreement back in April, Management had refused to actually sit down and bargain, making unlawful conditions. Just one example: The LCSO announced to its musicians that it would not bargain until the union’s “frivolous grievances have been laid to rest.”
(6) Illegally locking out winds, brass, percussion, harp and keyboard players who each have an executed contract for this season.
This lockout represents a breach of contract with each of these LCSO musicians. It also is a depiction and an escalation of actions which led to all the charges listed above.