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"Can My Employer Do That to Me?" Find Out If You're Being Treated Fairly

Labor and employment laws are complicated beasts. A new website launched by the Chicago-based national group Interfaith Worker Justice offers help.

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For example the section on a union's fair duty of representation reads:

"Representatives of the union (elected leaders, staff, and shop stewards) can't discriminate against a worker because of union politics (for example, because a worker spoke out against something the union was doing or supported another candidate in a union election). The union cannot play favorites. They must represent every worker who is covered by the contract -- members and non-members. The union cannot make a non-member join in order to represent her grievance or discipline case. Unions have to give a reasonable level of representation, but the standard is pretty low."

This winter Interfaith Worker Justice was deeply involved in the successful struggle of workers at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago, where more than 200 workers occupied the factory after it was closed suddenly and they were not given federally mandated notice or severance pay. In the face of the occupation and surrounding public and political pressure, two major banks extended loans to cover the money due workers, and a California-based manufacturer of green building components ended up buying the factory and promising to hire workers back. Republic Windows workers were represented by the UE union, whose organizers and supporters were on top of the complicated legal issues involved. But since their high profile victory, the Republic Workers have heard from countless other workers nationwide whose legal rights were violated, and who didn't know it at the time or didn't know where to turn. This website should be a valuable aid for workers across the country and across the spectrum of industries and positions.

Kari Lydersen , a regular contributor to AlterNet, also writes for the Washington Post and is an instructor for the Urban Youth International Journalism Program in Chicago.