Yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board announced a new online tool designed to inform employees of their rights to engage in “protected concerted activity” — even if they’re not in a union.

What Is It?

The site discusses a plethora of recent cases that can be viewed by clicking on an interactive map, including:

  • a construction crew fired after refusing to work in the rain near exposed electrical wires;
  • a customer service rep who lost her job after discussing wages with a co-worker;
  • an engineer fired after reporting safety concerns affecting other employees;
  • a paramedic fired after posting work-related grievances on Facebook; and
  • poultry workers fired after discussing their grievances with a newspaper reporter.

According to the NLRB, the cases were selected to show a variety of situations but with a common underlying theme: an NLRB finding that the activity was protected under federal labor law.

What’s the Law Say?

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act states:

Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all such activities.

That right has been upheld in numerous federal court decisions over the years. According to the NLRB, non-union concerted activity now accounts for more than 5% of the agency’s recent caseload. This tool and other efforts could make that number grow considerably.

What’s the NLRB Say?

The site’s preamble makes it pretty clear: “If employees are fired, suspended, or otherwise penalized for taking part in protected group activity, the National Labor Relations Board will fight to restore what was unlawfully taken away.”

“A right only has value when people know it exists,” says NLRB Chair Mark Gaston Pearce. “We think the right to engage in protected concerted activity is one of the best kept secrets of the National Labor Relations Act, and more important than ever in these difficult economic times. Our hope is that other workers will see themselves in the cases we’ve selected and understand that they do have strength in numbers.”