What is a Labor Union?

The simple answer to this question is that it is a group of workers who organize in order to improve their working conditions, wages, and benefits. But there is a lot more to a union than just organization. Labor or trade unions serve as strength in numbers, a collective intermediary between the employees and the employer.

Labor Union History

Technically, medieval artisan guilds were the first types of unions. Guilds were groups of craftsmen, masters and apprentices, that worked collectively to communicate prices, wages, and product output.

Modern-day unions in the United States started in the 19th century following the Industrial Revolution due to the rise in organized labor and jobs that required a certain craft. While workers, mainly craft laborers like carpenters, masonry workers, woodworkers, printers, and engineers, started to assemble in the late 1800s during what’s now called the labor movement to discuss workers’ rights, it wasn’t until Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the New Deal and then the Wagner Act (The National Labor Relations Act of 1935) that laborers’ rights to organize were protected. These new labor laws led to workers unionizing even if they didn’t have a special skill. The rise in unionization was met with the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 which essentially gave employers the rights to stand up to union workers and prohibited various types of strikes, picketing, and boycotts.

Of course, politics had a large impact on the rise of unions. Democratic ideals that employees should have a say in the way businesses were managed was a relatively new way of thinking in the early 20th century. And because most workers had a skill that the business required to operate, they began to see they had bargaining power.

Unions historically see large spurts of growth usually due to social upheaval. This makes sense because individuals rarely see the need for change if working conditions are fair. But when employees see the benefit of working together to change management practices instead of simply quitting and finding another job, they consider help with representation.

Unions see the most success when they have representative allies in government and a voice to help communicate struggles to the general public.

National Umbrella Labor Organizations:

  • AFL-CIO: American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (merged in 1955)
  • CtW: Change to Win Organizing Center (an offshoot of AFL-CIO since 2005)
  • IWW:
    Industrial Workers of the World

Private Sector Union Regulators:

  • NLRA: National Labor Regulations Act
  • NLRB: National Labor Regulations Board

Additional Key Terms:

  • Weingarten Rights: The right to union representation during court investigatory interviews
  • EFCA: Employee Free Choice Act
  • Ghent System: Unions become responsible for unemployment distribution for members
  • EMRB: Employee-Management Relations Board
  • FLSA: Fair Labor Standards Act
  • OPR: Office of Professional Responsibility
  • CBA: Collective Bargaining Agreement
  • DOL: Department of Labor
  • NLRB: National Relations of Labor Board
  • BLS: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Nevada-Specific Terms

  • NRS: Nevada Revised Statutes

Nevada Labor Unions and Laws

Nevada is a right-to-work state which means that employees aren’t required to join a union in order to work, as well as an at-will employment state which means both the employer and employee have the right to terminate employment with no liability as long as there is no contract or labor union agreement.

However, as of June 13, 2019, the Nevada legislature passed Senate Bill 135 which allows state employees to unionize and gives unions better legal standing. Now, the Local Government Employee- Management Relations Board (EMRB) will be required to hear work-related disputes between the employee and the state. Furthermore, SB135 gives unions the power to collectively bargain specifically for state employees like category I peace officers. The freedom to negotiate wages, paid leave, and work safety is a welcome change for thousands of state employees.

Nevada Police Union | Exclusive Collective Bargaining Union for Nevada’s Category I Peace Officers

Nevada Police Union (NPU), formally known as the Nevada Highway Patrol Association, is the second-largest union in the state and the only union that can legally represent Nevada’s category I members (highway patrol troopers, parole and probation officers, fire marshalls, detectives, game wardens, park rangers, and university and capitol police).
Under NRS Chapter 288, labor organizations and employee organizations are designated as the exclusive representative for a bargaining unit, while NRS 289.080 provides that peace officers may designate two persons of their choice to represent them in certain personnel matters. Nevada Police Union has been awarded the right to legally represent peace officers in collective bargaining agreements and work-related issues including grievances, Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) investigations, Officer-Involved Shootings (OIS), and more.
NPU membership has grown immensely outside of the Department of Public Safety, representing peace officers working throughout Nevada from State Parks, Department of Wildlife, and Nevada System of Higher Education and is always staying current with fighting for employee protection.
For example, Nevada Police Union recently issued a formal complaint with the Nevada Department of Public Safety due to a lack of protocol around COVID-19 safety. Nevada Police Union representatives are working with the state to get appropriate protective equipment for officers in the field.

Union membership with NPU provides legal representation, supplemental insurance benefits through Aflac, entertainment discounts, training and education scholarships, and the assurance that your voice is being heard in Nevada Legislature.

Explore NPU membership here !