Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Private sector employees, whether they belong to a union or not, enjoy a number of protections under state and federal law.  Most non-unionized, private sector workers are covered by the National Federal Labor Relations Act (“Act”). [1] 

  • Private sector workers covered by the Act have the right to self-organize, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing. [2] 
  • Private sector workers covered by the Act also have the right to engage in other concerted activities for the purposes of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, including engaging in a strike. [3]
  • It is considered an unfair labor practice for employers to “interfere with, restrain, or coerce” employees covered by the Act in the exercise of these rights, including the rights to self-organize, form or join a union, bargain collectively, or engage in a strike for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.[4]  

 As the National Labor Relations Board explains: "The law we enforce gives employees the right to act together to try to improve the quality of pay and working conditions or fix job related problems, even if they are not in a union."

Not all concerted activity is legally protected. For example, workers do not have the right to engage in violence. Whether or not an activity is protected by the Act depends on the facts.

Visit the Department of Labor and Industries for more information about worker rights, including:

  • Wage and Hour:  Learn more about minimum wage, breaks, schedules, overtime and prevailing wage
  • Complaints: How to file a complaint if you feel your rights have been violated
  • Discrimination:Where to file complaints about discrimination in the workplace
  • Termination Rights: Reasons you can and can't be fired

   [1] The Act also covers any individual whose work has ceased as a consequence of, or in connection with, any current labor dispute or because of any unfair labor practice, and who has not obtained any other regular and substantially equivalent employment, but shall not include any individual employed as an agricultural laborer, or in the domestic service of any family or person at his home, or any individual employed by his parent or spouse, or any individual having the status of an independent contractor, or any individual employed as a supervisor, or any individual employed by an employer subject to the Railway Labor Act [45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq.], as amended from time to time, or by any other person who is not an employer as herein defined.
 
[2] National Labor Relations Act, Section 7.
 
[3] National Labor Relations Act, Section 7.
 
[4] National Labor Relations Act, Section 8.

  Disclaimer:

State law prohibits the Attorney General, deputy attorneys general, and assistant attorneys general from engaging in the private practice of law.  This means that they cannot represent private citizens in court either to bring an action on behalf of an individual, or to defend an individual.

Any private citizen needing such representation should consult a private attorney.

If you do not know an attorney in your area, you may access the WSBA Lawyer Directory, and search by city. Pro bono legal services for those who are low-income can also be found on WSBA's website.