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The Unionization Process Explained: From Committee to Contract

The Unionization Process Explained: From Committee to Contract

Fairness, security, and better benefits are just some reasons why employees form a union


Why Unions?

When employees feel they don’t have a voice, they sometimes find that strength in numbers helps meet their needs.

In a union, problems are solved more effectively since they’re negotiated by a group. Additionally, aspects of the job that were previously out of their control like hours worked, pay, and benefits are cemented in a legally-binding contract.

There’s a reason why so many public-sector workers join unions or choose to be represented by them – they know that being part of a union means they have the power to improve their lives.


To start with a definition, the unionization process is:

The process of organizing the employees of a company into a labor union which will act as an intermediary between the employees and company management. In most cases it requires a majority vote of the employees to authorize a union. If a union is established the company is said to be unionized.


Important Union Membership Data


Public vs. Private Stats

In 2019, union membership among public-sector workers was 33.6% - five times higher than private-sector workers at 6.2%.

The reason perhaps being that employees who work in the public-sector have the ability to bargain for against the government – giving them the possibility of securing vast sums of money.

Compare that with a private-sector union, where the employee can only bargain with their employer.


Union Salaries vs. Non-Union Salaries

Interestingly enough, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2019, nonunion workers took home median weekly earnings that were 81% of earnings for union members ($892 compared to $1095 for full-time employees). 

Interested in the spread of union membership rates by state? Have a look:

Union Membership


The Unionization Process: Major Steps

While membership in a union can provide many benefits, organizing one can take time and requires a great deal of preparation.

If you’re thinking about organizing, here’s a brief overview of what the process entails:


The Preparation

Are you being unfairly targeted or treated with disrespect? Do you feel your pay is lower than others in your industry?

If you think you’re not the only one with these concerns, talk to a few of your co-workers who may be interested in organizing. Once you gather enough support, you can start assembling your committee.

You’ll want your committee to consist of various departments, jobs, genders, and ethnicities so you can have fair representation. These committee members must then be educated on the issues at hand and proper union organizing policies and principles.

For now, you’ll want to keep all discussions and meetings private, although you should know your rights.


Knowing Your Rights

Speaking of rights, you have the right to organize. You also have the right to wear and distribute union materials such as buttons and t-shirts.

Discussing union matters at work, however, may be not be the best place to do it, as your employer can limit work hours to just that.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) also makes it clear that you cannot be fired or penalized in any way for joining a union or participating in any union-related activities.


The Campaigning

02-13-18 union organizing megaphone-web1028px.jpg

Once your committee is formed, they’ll develop a list of demands or issues they’d like to see improve, otherwise known as an issues program.

Committee members will then solicit employees to back their union.


Campaign Requirements

To become eligible for an election, at least 30% of employees must show support, although some committees wait to announce representation until 50% or more of employees sign.

At this point, your campaign will likely be public and you can start handing out flyers, pamphlets, and other informative materials.


The Election

After you meet the minimum threshold required for organizing, you’ll submit a petition to the NLRB.

They’ll conduct an investigation into your union’s legitimacy. Once your union is qualified, NLRB agents will facilitate an agreement between your employer and members of your union to determine the setting for election.

This includes date, time, place, and ballot language. A union becomes certified if they win a majority of votes cast.


The Negotiating


02-13-18 union organizing negotiation-web1028px.jpg

By the time you get to this step, you’ve won your election and are now preparing to negotiate your issues.

This is where the real work begins, as the bargaining process can be time-intensive and requires a solid issues program. Pressure to meet demand is placed on both sides during negotiation, and compromises are sometimes made. If bargaining is successful, both sides will sign a union contract outlining the improvements.


Last Words on Union Organizing

Unions are a democratic solution to create change in an unsatisfactory work environment.

If you’re ready to form a union and need a little extra help with the election process – we’re here to help. Check out our eBallot for Business page to get a better sense of how we help run successful votes, from officer elections to contract ratifications.

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