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Some notions die-hard. Can you believe that in the 21st Century, employees are still referred to as “servants” and employers are called “masters” under the law? Well, if you’re an “at-will” employee these terms are accurate.
Over 60 million Americans go to work each day and turn their lives over to the whims of their boss. Over 2 million are fired each year and an estimated 200,000 are never given a reason according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
At-will employment, and its legal underpinnings, began early in the history of our country. The term arose from the need to differentiate between slaves, indentured servants and “free labor.” The legal relationships between slaves and their masters and indentured servants and their masters were easy to define. These workers had no rights.
However, free labor had the right to quit – a big step up from slavery and servitude – while the master retained the right to fire. This became known as at-will employment. In the 1800s, some workers began to sue their employers and the courts largely dismissed their cases citing at-will employment. Thus, the term worked its way into our legal framework.
Now, jump ahead to modern America.
Imagine that you are injured at work and you need a few days to recover. You file for workers' compensation benefits and think that when you’ve recovered you can return to work. But, the boss fires you! What do you do?
You hire a lawyer. You believe that in America you can exercise your legal right to file a claim without retaliation. But, the court see things differently and rules that you have “no legal standing” because of your at-will status.
In August 1997, this is exactly what happened to a Pennsylvania man. The Pennsylvania Superior court ruled that as an at-will employee, not covered by a contract (such as a union contract), the "employer may terminate an employee at any time for any reason or for no reason".
What can you do to protect yourself?
Organize a union. Organize under the IAM banner.
While some laws may
protect you from certain forms of discrimination or whistle blowing,
if you’re luck enough to be covered, you’ll probably have to hire an
attorney to pursue the case. Organizing a union and bargaining
an employment contract is your best protection against employment
at-will. Plus, you’ll no doubt improve your pay and benefits.
It’s win-win – for you!
The IAM Organizing Department can help you in many ways. We have an experienced and motivated staff to lead you through your campaign. These people work very hard to maintain our winning record.
If you’re already in a union, we may be able to help you affiliate with the IAM. Being a part of the large, successful IAM can improve your bargaining power and provide many member-only benefits. Organizations like the Shipbuilders Union, Die Sinkers International Union, Wichita Engineer Association, Patternmakers Union, International Woodworkers of America and the National Federation of Federal Employees have all joined the IAM family.
For more information call the IAM Organizing Department at (301) 967-4750 or visit their website HERE.
Delta Airlines employees organizing to join the IAM