How do workers unionize, and how do these organizations help workers?
Workers' Compensation - July 18, 2023
Many of the most important worker protections in this country are due to labor unions, groups of two or more employees who work to advance common interests. Safer workplaces, child protections, and 8-hour days are all the result of hard-working unions. If your workplace does not currently have a union but is considering one, you may wonder how it will affect you.
How do workers unionize?
The first step when beginning a union is communicating. You can do this with the help of a union organizer, or you can start the union on your own. Speaking to the employees at your workplace about joining the union is a good place to begin.
There is a great likelihood that your co-workers have concerns. These could be about a number of issues. Speak to other employees and find out what their concerns are and if many of the employees have similar issues.
By agreeing on your concerns and how you can have a stronger voice as a group than alone, you may find that many of the employees want to band together and create a union.
Can an employer refuse to bargain with a union?
No, they cannot. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects unions and their right to negotiate with employers. Though the employer may not choose to recognize a union, once it is instigated with the NLRB backing, your employer has no choice but to negotiate.
Role of a union organizer
Union organizers play a key role in motivation and structure. Union organizers are elected or they are appointed to lead the organization. They oversee union organization and operation and are in charge of recruiting new workers to join the group.
Union organizers are also responsible for familiarizing new members with the union and communicating with employees in the industry. Some of the jobs of a union leader are listed below:
- Acquainting new members with what the union does and how it can help them
- Outreach to employees in the union’s industry
- Supervises the organization
- Organizes the operations of the union
- Executing negotiations with the owners and those in management positions
- Traveling between job sites to communicate with employees there and to see if there are issues that should be addressed
- Helping union members who have concerns
- Act as representatives when labor disputes or legal issues occur
Two ways to create a union
Unions can begin in a couple of ways, voluntary recognition or through a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election.
After determining that a union is in the majority of the employees’ best interest, workers must sign a union authorization card. To form a union through voluntary recognition, the majority of the employees need to sign the union authorization cards.
If you have a majority of people signing to be part of the union, you can present it to your employer and ask them for voluntary recognition. The employer can then choose to recognize the union. If they recognize the union, you can begin negotiating for better conditions.
If they refuse to recognize your union, there are a couple of available routes. First, employees can strike for recognition. Second, the group may file a petition to conduct an election with the NLRB.
You can skip the voluntary recognition altogether and go this route, or you can go this route if your employer is refusing to voluntarily recognize your employee’s union.
At least 30% of employees must vote to be part of the union for it to be recognized by the NLRB. The NLRB holds this anonymous election, and if 30% vote for unionization, their employer has to recognize them as the body to be negotiated with.
If your union wins 50% of the vote, your employer is legally required to negotiate with the union for better working conditions.
How much do union workers make?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that union employees can expect to make 18% more than non-union workers in the United States. So, it literally pays to be in a union.
How do unions help workers?
Unions are made up of employees. When conditions at their place of employment need to be addressed, they band together and use their collective bargaining power to make the changes necessary to make their jobs safer and more equitable. This bargaining power can extend to benefits, wages, and the rights of all employees.
Contact us today
If you have questions about starting a union or if you would benefit from doing so, contact a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney today. At Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, we are ready to help with any employment issues you may be experiencing. Call today at (800) 985-1819 for a free consultation.