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Unionization: Things to Know if You’re Trying to Organize Your Workplace

Virginia Diamond

Do you feel that certain things are not done right where you work? Are you a hard-working and dedicated employee who is concerned about unfairness, safety, staffing, pay, or job security? If you wish to have a voice on the job to address these issues, you may decide to join with your co-workers to form a union.

A union is a democratic organization run by workers that provides a collective voice on the job. Once a union is established, employees have a seat at the table to negotiate over pay, benefits and working conditions. A collective bargaining agreement goes into effect after both parties reach a compromise and the workers have voted to accept it. The contract provides a grievance procedure for due process to resolve disagreements between supervisors and employees.

Organizing a union in your workplace is not a simple process, and it requires the guidance of an experienced union organizer as well as input from a labor attorney. The process for forming a union depends upon the type of workplace and whether it is in the private or public sector.

One of the roles of the union organizer is to educate workers about unions. Often during union organizing campaigns people spread false information and rumors. For example, some people claim that strikes are extremely common, when in fact strikes are very rare and occur in less than 2% of negotiations. Most unions have positive relationships with their employers, and they share a common mission of achieving success for the enterprise.

The federal law governing labor relations, the National Labor Relations Act., provides certain protections against retaliation or discrimination based on union activity or collective action. The United Nations Declaration of Fundamental Rights states that the right to have a union is a basic human right.

If you want to learn more about organizing a union where you work, contact Virginia Diamond. Ms. Diamond is the former assistant organizing director of the AFL-CIO, and she has taught organizing and labor law at the National Labor College.