American ports on the West Coast have come to a standstill, according to a recent Huffington Post article. Twenty-nine seaports that are responsible for handling approximately $1 trillion worth of goods each year will be shut down almost completely for four to five days because companies don’t want to pay higher wages due to the holiday and weekend rates imposed by the labor contracts. The dispute between the cargo workers’ union and the employers, however, goes beyond pay rate. Employers accuse purposeful slowdown of the movement of cargo by the dockworkers. The workers, on the other hand, claim a shortage of truck beds and other factors out of their control are the reasons for the slow movement. Regardless, what we are witnessing is an unfolding labor dispute in one of the most important industries in the country.
Labor Union Basics
The United States grants the right to working people to organize in order to address employment-related issues such as wages, benefits and working conditions. In fact, these rights are protected under federal law, known as the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Sometimes known as the Wagner Act of 1935, this federal law lays out specific and basic labor law rights an American worker in the private sector is owed. Specifically:
- The right to form or join a union;
- The right to collective bargaining for a contract that sets benefits, hours, wages and other working conditions;
- The right to strike;
- The right to discuss, in certain settings, union organizing or wages with other co-workers or in a union; and
- The right to raise complaints with other co-workers to an employer or government agency regarding working conditions.
The National Labor Relations Bureau (NLRB) is the entity that enforces the NLRA. The NLRB also investigates unfair practices and remedies them if found, as well as conducts union representation elections. Likewise, the Department of Labor (DOL) administers and enforces almost 200 federal laws and regulations beyond the NLRA for the more than 125 million workers in the U.S. Laws enforced by the DOL cover various employment-related areas, including:
- Plant closings;
- Plant layoffs;
- Time off for FMLA purposes;
- Workplace health and safety;
- Wage rates and hour limits;
- Workers’ compensation claims; and
- Employee benefits.
In addition to federal law, states have also created laws relating to labor disputes. In California, labor law addresses numerous issues, including minimum wage and overtime, workplace harassment, time-off regulations, post-employment benefits, discharge from work, safe work environment, and workers’ compensation.
Labor Law Attorney: LA, California
Because labor laws are always changing, it is important to retain the most knowledgeable and skilled labor law attorney LA has to offer. Understanding how the laws may affect your case is important. Contact Levine & Blit, PLLC for a no-obligation evaluation of your case by calling (212) 967-3000 today. The most experienced labor law attorney LA has to offer will know how to proceed with wage/labor issues specific to California.