Canaries in the Coal Mine: The Tactical Use of the National Labor Relations Act to Aid in the Protection of Non-Union Workers Exposed to Pollutants

12 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2010 Last revised: 1 Dec 2013

See all articles by Michael C. Duff

Michael C. Duff

University of Wyoming College of Law

Date Written: April 8, 2010

Abstract

Canaries were used in times past to alert miners to the presence of dangerous gases in a mine. A canary would die, and the miners would thereby become aware of deadly, but sometimes odorless, gases. Just as canaries have alerted miners to the presence of dangerous gases in mines, workers exposed to dangerous pollutants and conditions in workplaces may function as societal canaries warning the broader public of environmental dangers; but hopefully without having to die in the process. To perform this role, the workers must live to work (and protest) another day. Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act is an underappreciated tool for making that outcome more likely for non-union workers not enjoying the safety provisions of collective bargaining agreements. It protects workers engaged in concerted activities to, in effect, save their lives.

Keywords: protected concerted activity, environmental justice, worker safety

JEL Classification: K31, K32

Suggested Citation

Duff, Michael C., Canaries in the Coal Mine: The Tactical Use of the National Labor Relations Act to Aid in the Protection of Non-Union Workers Exposed to Pollutants (April 8, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1587056 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1587056

Michael C. Duff (Contact Author)

University of Wyoming College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 3035
Laramie, WY 82071
United States

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