NLRB’s Weingarten Decision Also Hurts Workers in ‘Non-Majority’ Unions

The recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board to take back Weingarten rights from non-union workers will have an impact on innovative new kinds of workplace organizing.

Unions like the Communication Workers (CWA) and the United Electrical Workers (UE) have been building “non-majority” unions, groups of workers who organize and fight to improve their lives on the job without a contract or bargaining rights.
Non-majority unions have been formed at General Electric, where the IUE-CWA formed “Working At GE” (or WAGE), and at IBM, home of the CWA’s Alliance[at]IBM[dot] UE has formed non-majority unions in the public sector and private manufacturing in North Carolina.

Part of the strategy used by IUE-CWA organizers assisting non-union GE workers around the country has been to educate WAGE Committee activists about their rights at work, including federal employment law, worker’s comp, OSHA, and, until recently, Weingarten rights.


The WAGE Committees then educate and inform co-workers about these rights and offer to help resolve co-workers’ problems, including acting as a “Weingarten representative” during an investigatory interview by managers.

The goal was to protect workers from unfair and coercive treatment during questioning, to provide reliable witnesses who would also stand up to management, and to help all workers become comfortable with dealing with the employer as a group rather than as individuals.



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For the Carolina Auto Aerospace and Machine Workers Union (CAAMWU/UE Local 150), the exercise of Weingarten rights has been one of the basic tools in building non-majority unions at Consolidated Diesel Company (CDC) and the manufacturing company Vermont American (VA), in Whitakers and Greenville, North Carolina, respectively.

CAAMWU/UE filed an unfair labor practice charge against Vermont American for violating a member’s Weingarten rights, which led to a settlement agreement on September 28, 2001. Following this victory, CAAMWU/UE began distributing laminated Weingarten rights cards to union members at both CDC and VA.

CAAMWU/UE members joined delegates to the statewide UE Local 150 convention in July and passed a resolution condemning the NLRB decision.

CAAMWU/UE Local 150 will be hosting a UE non-majority union conference in Whitakers August 21-22, where the union’s response to the ruling will be discussed further.

Workers, organizers, union staffers, labor lawyers, academics, and others are studying the NLRB’s decision to revoke Weingarten in hopes of finding a way to reestablish Weingarten rights for all workers.

Paul Bouchard is Organizing Director of IUE-CWA Local 201 in Lynn, Massachusetts and works with “WAGE” committees at non-union GE factories in New England. Jim Wrenn is Secretary-Treasurer of CAAMWU/UE.