Unionization and Workers’ Rights in 2024

As has already been discussed in this blog, 2023 saw a record-breaking amount of union activity across the United States.  Strikes by large, high-profile unions representing the United Auto Workers, UPS workers, the teamsters, and writers and actors as well as smaller, lower-profile unions all resulted in gains for workers.

One would think that these wins would translate into an increase in the percentage of unionized workers in the United States, but studies are not yet showing that increase.  In fact, overall union membership dropped in 2023 from 10.1% to 10%.  See https://www.jacksonlewis.com/insights/top-five-labor-law-developments-january-2024. 

Experts suggest a large influx of workers into the economy increased the overall worker population and diluted any specific increases in a unionized workforce.  To the extent there are gains in union membership, these gains are more likely to be in workers of color under the age of 45.

It may be that the impact of 2023 union successes hasn’t revealed itself yet.  Further, there were several rulings by the National Labor Relations Board in 2023 that should create a more favorable environment for union organizing and recruitment.  The impact of these rulings may start to be felt this coming year.

Overall, employers should anticipate continued strong union activity across the country and pay attention to their workforce.  Now may be a good time to consult with legal counsel about how employers can legally respond to unionization efforts should they arise.

The rights of temporary workers in New Jersey also took center stage in 2023 with the passage of the New Jersey Temporary Worker Bill of Rights.  In 2024, New Jersey temporary help service firms await greater clarity from the State on the implementation of the new law.

Temporary help service firms and their clients should monitor the development of regulations issued by the State that will interpret and clarify provisions of the law.  They should also watch for updates on the remaining provisions of the law that have not yet gone into effect, particularly provisions regarding temporary help service firm registration.

Stay tuned.     

A Leniency Program for New Jersey Small Businesses

It often feels like business owners must contend with a constant stream of new governmental rules and regulations.  However, under A-4753/S-3208, signed into law in March and taking effect just this week, the State of New Jersey is attempting to ease the regulatory burden on small businesses.  Small businesses in New Jersey, defined as businesses having a maximum of 50 full-time employees or the equivalent thereof, now may have a 60 calendar day “cure” period to address and resolve first-time violations in order to avoid paying monetary fines or civil penalties.  In effect, this new legislation grants state agencies the authority to suspend the enforcement of penalties on select first-time violations at their discretion to allow time for the small business to address the source of the penalty.

There are limitations to when the State can offer this “cure” period.  Leniency is not available when a businesses’ violation results in a significant adverse impact on public safety or welfare, poses a risk to the environment, or puts fellow employees’ income or employment benefits in jeopardy.

Further, there are seven exceptions carved into the law where leniency is not available.  These exceptions are: (1) criminal violations; (2) intentional violations; (3) violations that are grounds for the suspension or revocation of the owner’s authority to operate the business; (4) violations that are grounds for the business to be disqualified from bidding for state contracts; (5) violations of any state employment or labor-related law; (6) violations that are grounds for the issuance of a stop-work order; and (7) violations of federal law that require the State to impose a penalty.

Failure to address the violation during the 60 day “cure” period will result in assessment of the applicable fines and penalties available under law.  If you have been notified of a first-time violation, or you believe that a first-time violation may be eligible for a cure, you may contact the agency that issued the violation.

Employers are encouraged to visit https://business.nj.gov/recent/leniency-may-be-available-for-first-time-violators-of-some-rules-regulations for more information concerning this new legislation.