Most academic workers at both private and public universities have the legal right to join or support a union and to engage in collective bargaining. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) now requires most employers to post a notice advising employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). If you have specific questions about your labor rights you can email us at

Under the NLRA, workers have the right to:

  • Read, distribute and discuss union literature (as long as you do this in non-work areas during non-work times).
  • Wear union buttons, T-shirts, stickers, hats or other items on the job at most worksites.
  • Sign a card asking your employer to recognize and bargain with the union.
  • Sign petitions or file grievances related to wages, hours, working conditions and other job issues.
  • Ask other employees to support the union, to sign union cards or petitions or to file grievances.

Here’s what an employer legally cannot do under the NLRA:

  • Threaten employees with loss of jobs or benefits if they join or vote for a union or engage in protected concerted activity.
  • Threaten to eliminate a program or department if employees select a union to represent them.
  • Question employees about their union sympathies or activities in circumstances that tend to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights under the act.
  • Promise benefits to employees to discourage their union support.
  • Transfer, lay off, terminate or assign employees more difficult work tasks because they engaged in union or protected concerted activity.

Employers routinely mount workplace wars to stop workers from forming unions, legally and illegally. If you think your employer has violated your right to a voice on the job, you can get help filing charges with the NLRB from AFT Academics if you are already a member, or if you are organizing to become one. Charges must be filed within six months of the alleged illegal conduct. The NLRB can order your employer to stop interfering with employee rights and to provide back pay or reverse any action against workers for their union activity.