This came out of a conversation with a friend of mine recently. My friend works at a place that has a company policy along the lines of “you can’t talk to your co-workers about your wages, hours, and conditions and you can’t talk to your co-workers about workplace discipline.” To the best of my knowledge this is a legally unenforceable policy in the U.S. There may be exceptions for people who have a collective bargaining agreement at work. The relevant legal language is in section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which says “Sec. 7. [§ 157.] 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 except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment as authorized in section 8(a)(3) [section 158(a)(3) of this title]..” If you work somewhere that has a policy like this – especially if your employer has disciplined or threatened you for violating this policy – consider contacting the local office of the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB is like a free lawyer agency for workers who have had their rights violated.”

The important bit for the purposes of this post is this line: “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” That means the right to do stuff with co-workers to improve our lives. If we can’t talk with each other about wages, conditions, and so on, we can’t take concerted activity.

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