Organizing 101: Forming a Union

Phase 1: Forming a Union

There are two ways that workers can come together to form a union in their workplace.

  1. Card Check Agreement: The easiest and usually quickest way to gain union representation is through a card check agreement. This is where the employer agrees not to interfere with workers’ choice to join a union. Once a majority of the employees fill out and sign authorization cards, they gain union representation.
  2. Union Election: If the employer doesn’t agree to a card check and a majority of workers have signed authorization cards, then workers must hold a union election. Filling out an authorization card at this point does not make you a member of the union, or require you to pay any dues, it just shows that you would like to have an election so you and your co-workers can decide whether or not to form a union.

Phase 2: Election

If your employer refuses a card check agreement, the union will send a petition to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to conduct an election. You shouldn’t have to wait longer than 3 to 5 weeks once the NLRB has been contacted. The National average for NLRB conducted elections is 26 days.

Since it is a secret ballot election, your boss will not know how you voted – just how many employees voted for union representation.

Phase 3: Negotiations

The next phase begins when you elect a group of your fellow workers to a negotiating committee.

The purpose of the negotiating committee is to assist professional union negotiators in getting a fair deal while negotiating your contract. The negotiating committee will survey the wants and needs of you and your co-workers to find out what the major concerns are and how best they could be solved through the contract.

Collective bargaining takes place between two groups – one composed of the negotiating committee and your union representative, and the other composed of representatives from management.

Usually after each collective bargaining session, the contract is returned to you and your fellow workers for discussion. Once the negotiating committee agrees that they have a good contract, they will bring it to their fellow co-workers for a final decision. Should the workers reject the contract, it will go back to the bargaining table for further negotiations until a contract is agreed upon. However, if a majority of employees approves the contract, the contract then goes into effect.

Phase 4: Membership

After you and your crew Vote by secret ballot and ratify your Collective Bargaining Agreement you will then become members. You will fill out a membership application and will begin paying Union dues in approximately 30 days.


Employer Interference by the Numbers

75% of companies hire consultants to help them fight union organizing drives

78% of companies force employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with managers

92% of companies force employees to attend mandatory anti-union presentations

52% of companies threaten to call Immigration and Naturalization Service during organizing drives that include undocumented employees

51% of companies threaten to close the plant if the union wins election

1% of companies actually close their plants after a successful union election

51% of union elections win when the employer does not threaten to close or move

24,000 The number of workers in 1998 who won cases proving they had been illegally discriminated against for engaging in legally protected union activity

42 million Number of nonunion workers who say they want to join a union

13.5% of US workers belong to unions

44% Percentage of US workers who would be in unions if workers could choose freely

25% of companies illegally fire at least one worker for union activity

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