Do you and your co-workers want change? Do you believe unionizing will be to your benefit? Well, each work place is a bit different, but when workers want to build a union, there are common basic steps to take.
First it is helpful to have a true understanding of how organizing can benefit you and your co-workers.
Understanding the Benefits of Union Membership
Union members – workers like you — benefit from the union’s collective bargaining power to negotiate with employers on their behalf. This basic right gives you as a union member more power than if you tried to negotiate as an individual. There is strength in numbers.
- Union employees make an average of 30% more than non-union workers
- 92% of union workers have job-related health coverage versus 68% of non-union workers
- Union workers are more likely to have guaranteed pensions than non-union employees.
Unions help protect employees from unjust dismissal through collective bargaining agreements. Because of this, most union employees cannot be fired without “just cause.” This is unlike many nonunion workers who are considered “at-will” employees and can be fired at any time for almost any reason.
Union members also benefit from having the collective power to go on strike. A strike is when a group of workers stops working either in protest of labor conditions or as a bargaining tool during labor/management negotiations.
Second, do a bit of homework…
- learn about building a union
- understand the differences unions can make at work
- find support among all work areas and kinds of workers
Third, deep dive into the steps of a Union Campaign!
1. Do workers want a change?
Workers talk among themselves to see if most people have issues that they want to change. The first step to building a union is figuring out if your co-workers want a union. Typically, a small group of workers who trust each other start to talk about what’s going on at work, what they can do to build a union, and what union they want to represent them. Workers need to be discreet – it’s too early for the boss to find out that workers are starting to think about getting union protection and a voice.
2. Gather information about your work place.
It’s important to map out all of the departments and where people work. Posted lists of workers and schedules will disappear when the company knows about the campaign, so collect them now. Home addresses are especially important, so workers can talk freely away from work.
3. Call a union, or a couple, to find one that you feel comfortable with.
Ask union members in your community if their union would be a good fit. Don’t worry too much about the name of the union – some unions represent workers who are in many different jobs. You can also decide to build a union that is “independent” – not affiliated with any national union (although it is often more difficult when workers don’t have support and resources from a national union).
4. Find the leaders who workers respect.
The union committee has to represent all of the workers (from each department, shift, job, and group) to be able to keep workers together during the campaign.
5. Learn how having a union can help with your problems.
Workers also need to know what to expect from the company during the union campaign.
6. Sign union cards when workers have enough information about the union and are ready for everything the company will do to try to stop them.
To win a union campaign, workers need to be strong and unified, with a big majority supporting the union. Signing a union authorization card means the worker wants the union to represent him or her to bargain with the company. The labor board will run an election when 30% of workers sign cards, but usually workers have a large majority before they ask for an election.
7. Workers show that they want a union.
A company can agree to have a neutral person from the community review the cards to see if a majority of workers want the union (“card check”). More often, the cards are used to have the National Labor Relations Board (or other agency) run a secret ballot election. The workers and the company have to agree on which workers will be able to vote and be represented by the union. Sometimes the company delays the election with labor board hearings. Once the bargaining unit (who is eligible to be represented) is decided, the labor board sets the date for the election, usually a month later.
8. The company tries to stop the workers from having a voice.
Companies want to keep all the power and don’t want to have to deal with workers who have protections, rights, and a voice. The time before a union election can be unpleasant – but it doesn’t last forever. Workers can overcome the company’s tricks if they stick together and keep talking among themselves.
9. Election day!
The labor boards runs the election and makes sure that the rules are followed. Workers vote in secret. The ballots are counted in front of the workers and company as soon as the election is over.
This was what the whole campaign was about – for workers and union representatives to be able to sit down with the boss and negotiate for fair rules and better working conditions. Workers decide what to negotiate for. For the union to be strong, the company must see that workers support the negotiations. Workers vote to approve the contract before it becomes final. Sometimes, workers ask community members, like religious leaders, to be observers during contract negotiations.
11. Protecting your rights on the job.
After there is a contract, workers have to make sure that the rules are followed. Active union members know that they have to be involved for their union to work.
Looking to organize on the job? What challenges have you faced? What successes can you share that may help others? Sound of on the Union Built PC on Facebook Page, or on our Twitter and LinkedIn feeds and do’t forget to subscribe to the Union Built PC monthly email newsletter for Union News delivered straight to your inbox.