Private sector workers are covered under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This is a federal law that lays out the organizing and bargaining process for private sector workers across the country.
Employee Rights Under The Law
The National Labor Relations Act says private sector workers have a right to form a union without fear of reprisal, intimidation, coercion or interference from the employer. Employees have the right to engage in concerted activities and join together with their coworkers to have a voice in their working standards. If a private employer in Iowa interferes or retaliates against an employee for exercising these rights it is an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) and charges can be filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB would then conduct an investigation to determine if the employer has violated the federal law.
Topic of Negotiations
When private sector employees organize, the employer is obligated by federal law to negotiate wages, hours and working conditions. Union contracts include both economic and non economic clauses. Non economic topics that employers are obligated to negotiate include breaks, seniority and health and safety issues. Economic issues cover everything from wages to vacations, holiday pay, clothing allowance and leaves of absence.
At Will vs. Just Cause
Private sector employees who work without a union are considered "at will" employees. This means they are hired and fired at the "will" of the employer. Policies are enforced or changed at "will" of the employer. But with a union contract, employees have the right to negotiate "just cause" language into their contract. "Just Cause" means the employer must have a reason to discipline or terminate employees. Just cause language eliminates favoritism and helps employers enforce policies consistently.