Introduction to Labor Law: The NLRA, Unions and Workers' Rights

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
WED 3:55 - 5:45 pm TNH 2.124

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location
Final exam (administered by Exam4 in Open Laptop mode) December 6, 2023 8:30 am 2.124


In the past few years, employee workplace protests and strikes have proliferated in a manner not seen since the 1930s. Surveys show that 71% of Americans approve of labor unions--the highest since 1965--and the National Labor Relations Board reported a 58% increase in union election petitions filed in 2022. With major union victories at nationwide franchises, including Starbucks and Amazon, the landscape for organizing has been changing with employees often choosing nontraditional worker-lead unions. However, substantial obstacles remain for employees hoping to unionize, as reflected in the low private sector unionization rate of only 6%.

This introduction to labor law will cover the basics of the National Labor Relations Act (governing private sector employees), as interpreted in National Labor Relations Board case law and Supreme Court precedent, with a particular emphasis on connection to current news events. The class will review and discuss labor law topics, ranging from:  what constitutes concerted, protected activity; social media rules; causation in Section 8(a)(3) discrimination cases; property rights and organizing; the election process; the duty to bargain in good faith; strikes, lockouts and other employer responses to organizing; the collective bargaining process; and the union’s responsibility to represent its members. Throughout the course, we will examine the history and values underlying the law, including the economic and political interests that have influenced its development.

Students will prepare a mid-term paper and be tasked with weekly debate topics. A final exam will be administered at the end of the semester.

• Guest speakers will include NLRB officials, as well as union and management side labor counsel. 

• Adjunct Professor Sonya Spielberg is a Senior Counsel at the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C., with more than 25 years' experience in public and private sector labor law.

Textbooks ( * denotes required )

Mastering Labor Law *
Secunda, Paul M., Lofaso, Anne Marie, Slater, Joseph E., and Hirsch, Jeffrey M.
Carolina Academic Press
ISBN: 978-1-59460-722-6


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Important Class Changes

Date Updated
10/31/2023 Exam information updated
03/02/2023 Course title updated