Collective Bargaining


What is the state of workers’ rights in North Carolina?


It is a commonly held belief among many North Carolinians that workers in this state cannot legally join a union–this is absolutely false. Workers throughout the state and the country have the constitutional right to freely join a union. However, it is illegal for public sector workers (those who are employed by the state or local governments) in North Carolina to collectively bargain with their employer.


What is collective bargaining and why is it so important?


Collective bargaining is the basic process of negotiation between workers acting collectively either as a union or other type of worker organization and their employers on issues such as wages, work rules, child care, health and safety on the job, benefits, workplace conditions, etc. While public workers in North Carolina can negotiate with their employer and join unions, collective bargaining establishes a legally enforceable and binding agreement between workers and management, making the bosses legally accountable in the process of negotiation and any decisions that may be reached during this process.


The principle behind collective bargaining stems from the idea that as a group, employees have more strength or bargaining power if they collaborate than they do if they try to negotiate with their employer individually. Because of its basis in collaboration, collective bargaining is inherently a democratic process since a majority of employees select the subjects they bargain over and vote on whether they agree to a contract.


The International Labor Organization (ILO), the United Nations agency responsible for drawing up and overseeing international labor standards, states in its Constitution and Declaration of Principles that the freedoms to associate and to bargain collectively are fundamental human rights.


When was collective bargaining banned in North Carolina and what is the ban’s ties to racism?


Collective bargaining was banned in North Carolina in 1959 by NC General Statute 95-98, which declared any contract between state or local government and any labor organization as “against the public policy of the state” and thus “illegal, unlawful, void, and of no effect.” This law was passed amid the Jim Crow racism of the South and legal segregation, at a time when Black people were systematically denied their rights, including the right to vote. Workers in Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, and across the state were organizing themselves into unions to fight back against low wages, discrimination on the job, unsafe working conditions and long hours, and a climate of Jim Crow racism. Collective bargaining is explicitly illegal in 5 states all located in the South: North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas.



One response to “Collective Bargaining

  1. Tammy

    Does this violate the constitution on freedom of speech as a protest is a form of speech ? Can any state supercede the constitution ?

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