Protect Your Wins
An election doesn’t in and of itself build a strong union—your organizing will do that. An election helps shore up what you’ve built but it doesn’t build a union by itself.
You believe a majority of workers in your workplace do or will support unionization.
You are ready to commit to building and maintaining a union long term at your workplace.
You want to lock in your gains for future employees at your workplace.
- Get either a petition or cards (or the right kind of digital sign-up) of 30% of everyone who will be eligible to vote in the union election.
The NLRB calls this petition or stack of cards a “showing of interest.”
- Plan a delegation or action to request recognition from the boss that you have formed a union and wish to negotiate, and to document your request.
- Fill out this representation petition to go along with your petition or stack to the NLRB. Find a fillable form of the RC petition here. You can choose to immediately join an established union with this petition, or you could affiliate with one later, or you could file as and stay an independent group. It’s important to carefully consider the language about who you are including and not including in your proposed “unit” (everyone who COULD be in the union—i.e., not managers)
- When they receive the petition, the NLRB will review it and begin the process of clarifying who is eligible for the unit and where/when a fair election can be held. The NLRB acts a mediator between the employer and union to set the terms for the election. Usually, the election is set for several weeks from the date you file the petition at the worksite within a specific time window.
- The NLRB will request the employer provide a list of all eligible voters in the unit’s name, address, phone number, and email. This list is then provided to the union as well.
- Certify your union as the “exclusive bargaining agent” for the terms and conditions of employment at your workplace. This means the boss can’t make changes to those terms and conditions without negotiating them with the union.
- Requires your employer to “negotiate in good faith” toward a binding contract—at least for a year-long period, at which point the employer could get dissenting workers to initiate a new election to de-certify the union.
- require the employer to let a union representative into any meeting that a worker believes could lead to discipline (Weingarten rights)
- immediately get you a contract with improvements
- end the organizing process—you have to keep organizing to get good changes in a contract, and then to make sure that contract gets enforced!
- “The unit is too small (or too big).” Employers will argue either way, depending on which they believe will stack the deck for the vote in their favor and get to a majority No vote. For instance, when Starbucks workers in Buffalo started to file for union certification elections, Starbucks filed legal objections with the NLRB claiming that a single store wasn’t an appropriate unit–that all stores in the Buffalo area should be polled at once. Although the NLRB ruled against Starbucks, the objections allow Starbucks more time to try to convince workers to vote no.
- “Union-sympathetic people with supervisory titles shouldn’t be included in the unit because they are actually managers” OR “managers who are opposed to the union SHOULD be included in the unit because they are NOT actually managers.” The NLRA forbids people who do certain supervisory activities from being part of a union, but what counts as supervisory is constantly being debated and changed. Shift supervisors have been included in Starbucks votes, as have so called “assistant managers” in other contexts, because they don’t actually do what the law considers supervisory activities. If someone can hire or fire people, they are definitely supervisors and cannot be included in the union.
Unions To Connect With
Who unions represent and where they operate can be confusing. Not every union is in every state, and many unions now represent more workers than their names suggest. So if you want to affiliate with an established union, we’ll get you pointed in the right direction. In the meantime, here are links to a few of the unions out there organized by the kinds of workplaces they organize.
- Starbucks: Workers United has organized several hundred Starbucks stores’ unions.
- Hotels, casinos, airport food service: UNITE HERE represents workers in the hospitality industry, especially workers in casinos, hotels, and airport food service.
- Healthcare workers in the South: United Labor Unions Local 100
- Janitorial, healthcare, airport facility work, nurses, service work: SEIU
- Nurses in certain states: National Nurses United
- communications and information industries, but also in news media, the airlines, broadcast miscellaneous: CWA
- Auto plants, graduate students and other academics: UAW
- Grocery stores, cannabis dispensaries, grocery-related retail: UFCW
- Truck drivers, warehouses, UPS workers: Teamsters
- Steelworkers, university workers, museums: USW
- Government workers : AFSCME
- Warehouses, docks on West Coast: ILWU
- Teachers: AFT
- EWOC (Emergency Worker Organizing Committee)– a joint project of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and United Electrical Workers (UE) offers longer trainings and connects with organizers.