Unionizing Know Your Rights Resources

Important Facts:

What is the National Labor Relations Board?

The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency vested with the power to safeguard employees’ rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative. The agency also acts to prevent, and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.

What is the National Labor Relations Act?

Congress approved the National Labor Relations Act in 1935 to encourage a healthy relationship between private-sector workers and their employers, which policy makers viewed as vital to the national interest. The NLRA was designed to curtail work stoppages, strikes and general labor strife, which were viewed as harmful to the U.S. economy and to the nation’s general well-being. The NLRA extends many rights to workers who wish to form, join or support unions, also known as labor organizations; to workers who are already represented by unions; and to workers who join together as a group (two or more employees) without a union seeking to modify their wages or working conditions, which is known as protected concerted activities. The NLRA also extends rights to employers, protecting commercial interests against unfair actions committed by labor organizations, and extends rights to labor organizations, protecting organizational and collective-bargaining representative interests against unfair actions committed by employers.

Did you know?

Did you know your employer cannot legally?
  1. Attend any union meeting, park across the street from the hall or engage in any undercover activity which would indicate that the employees are being kept under surveillance to determine who is and who is not participating in the union program.
  2. Tell employees that the company will fire or punish them if they engage in union activity.
  3. Lay off, discharge, and discipline any employee for union activity.
  4. Grant employees wage increases, special concessions or benefits in order to keep the union out.
  5. Bar employee-union representatives from soliciting employees’ memberships on or off the company property in non-working hours.
  6. Ask employees about union matters, meetings, etc. (Some employees may, of their own accord, walk up and tell of such matters. It is not an unfair labor practice to listen, but to ask questions to obtain additional information is illegal.)
  7. Ask an employee what they think about the union or a union representative once the employee refuses to discuss it.
  8. Ask employees how they intend to vote.
  9. Threaten employees with reprisal for participating in union activities. For example, threaten to move the plant or close the business, curtail operations or reduce employees’ benefits.
  10. Promise benefits to employees if they reject the union.
  11. Give financial support or other assistance to a union.
  12. Announce the company will not deal with the union.
  13. Threaten to close, in fact close, or move plant in order to avoid dealing with a union.
  14. Ask employees whether or not they belong to a union or have signed up for union representation.
  15. Ask a prospective employee, during the hiring interview, about his or her affiliation with a labor organization or how he or she feels about unions.
  16. Make anti-union statements or act in a way that might show preference for a non-union worker.
  17. Make distinctions between union and non-union employees when assigning overtime work or desirable work.
  18. Purposely team up non-union workers and keep them apart from those supporting the union.
  19. Transfer workers on the basis of union affiliations or activities.
  20. Choose employees to be laid off in order to weaken the union’s strength or discourage membership in the union.
  21. Discriminate against union people when disciplining employees.
  22. By nature of work assignments, create conditions intended to get rid of an employee because of his or her union activity.
  23. Fail to grant a scheduled benefit or wage increase because of union activity.
  24. Deviate from company policy for the purpose of getting rid of a union supporter.
  25. Take action that adversely affects an employee’s job or pay rate because of union activity.
  26. Threaten workers or coerce them in an attempt to influence their vote.
  27. Threaten a union member through a third party.
  28. Promise employees a reward or future benefit if they decide “no union.”
  29. Tell employees overtime work (and premium pay) will be discontinued if the workplace is unionized.
  30. Say unionization will force the company to lay off employees.
  31. Say unionization will do away with vacations or other benefits and privileges presently in effect.
  32. Promise employee’s promotions, raises or other benefits if they get out of the union or refrain from joining the union.
  33. Start a petition or circular against the union or encourage or take part in its circulation if started by employees.
  34. Urge employees to try to induce others to oppose the union or keep out of it.
  35. Visit the homes of employees to urge them to reject the union.
The Act outlines basic rights of employees as follows:
  • To self-organization.
  • To form, join, or assist labor organizations.
  • To bargain collectively for wages and working conditions through representatives of their own choosing.
  • To engage in other protected concerted activities with or without a union, which are usually group activities (two or more employees acting together) attempting to improve working conditions, such as wages and benefits.
  • To refrain from any of these activities.

How do we form a union, what is the process?

Filing A Petition

If you want a union to represent you at your workplace or if you no longer wish the union that currently represents you to continue doing so, the filing of a petition with the NLRB will be the means by which either action can be initiated.

Evidence Needed with a Petition

Generally, in order to file a petition with the NLRB, the petition must be accompanied by evidence demonstrating that the petition has the support of at least 30% (65% minimum with the IBEW) of your fellow employees. This support usually will be in the form of dated signatures from interested employees who indicate by individual cards (authorization cards) or signature sheets that they are interested in being represented by a particular union for the purpose of collective bargaining. Authorization cards are strictly confidential and will never be shown to an employer by the Union.

Section 9 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
  1. When a majority of authorization cards (65% of the bargaining unit) has been secured, the IBEW will ask the company to recognize your union. (Even though the law only requires 30%, we think it is wise not to ask for recognition with less than 65%. We don’t want to waste your time or our time if we don’t think we can be successful.)
  2. If the company should refuse such recognition, the authorization cards may then be taken to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) where the union files a petition for an election.
  3. The Board then sets a date when you vote — by secret ballot — for the union.
  4. You vote — in secret — “Yes” for union representation, “No” for no union representation.
  5. A simple majority of the employees who vote wins.
  6. The Board then certifies the union — and soon thereafter contract negotiations begin with your employer for higher wages, job security and -­ improved working condition.
COMMON QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Q: “HOW DOES THE UNION WORK?”

A:         A union is a democratic organization of a majority of the employees in a facility. The basic idea of union is that by joining together with fellow employees to form a union, workers have a greater ability to improve conditions at the worksite. In other words, “In unity, there.is strength.”

Q: “WHO RUNS THE UNION? THE COMPANY SAYS THAT THE UNION IS JUST A BUNCH OF OUTSIDERS – A THIRD PARTY.”

A:         You run your own union. You have input into who your own negotiating committee will be and prepare your own list of improvements for a union contract. You elect your own officers. You have input into who will serve as your shop stewards. The union is not an “outsider”, it is you – the worker.

Q: “HOW MUCH ARE DUES?”

A:         The dues will depend on what the local needs to operate efficiently and effectively and vary from Local Union to local Union and are set by the members of that Local Union. The dues/or BA membership at most Local Unions are generally between one and two hours pay per month. You also have a say in regards to the International portion of the dues, which are set and voted on by all Local Union delegates at the International convention every five (5) years, can be changed or created. All initiation fees will be waived for members of newly organized units.

Q: “WHERE DO UNION DUES GO?”

A:         The union dues are divided between the International Union and the workers’ own local union, which will have its own treasury. Dues are used to run the union and keep it strong. They are used to pay employees for time missed due to union business and negotiations, to pay for paper, pens, and utilities at the Local Union hall, and to pay for office equipment, arbitration costs, etc. however, all expenses are approved by the membership.

Q: “WILL THE UNION MAKE US GO ON STRIKE?”

A:         No one can force you to go out on strike. There can only be a strike at your facility if a majority  of the  workers at your facility vote to go on strike. It is a fact, that over 98% of all union contracts are negotiated without a strike.

The /BEW has an even better record than that. Wise unions strike only when they know they can win.

Q: “CAN I GET FIRED FOR HELPING THE UNION OR FOR ATTENDING A UNION MEETING?”

A:         It is illegal for you to be fired, punished, or harassed for attending union meetings or for supporting the union. The law (National Labor Relations Acts) protects your rights as a worker to improve your working conditions and negotiate wages, hours of work, and working conditions, to name a few.

Q: “WHAT BENEFITS CAN THE UNION GUARANTEE?”

A:         The union can only guarantee one thing: with the support, strength, and unity of the workers & the union staff working together we can win the best wage, benefit, and working rule package possible. The union can guarantee you a contract, provided you are willing to help.

Q: “WILL I LOSE THE BENEFITS I HAVE NOW?”

A:         No, it is against the law for the company to take away benefits you have now in order to punish you for voting for or supporting a union. Remember, you vote on your contract in the end. Would you vote for a cut in pay or benefits? I don’t think so!

Q: “WHAT ABOUT UNION CORRUPTION AND DISHONESTY?”

A:         The company would like you to think that all union officials everywhere are corrupt. Most unions are decent, honest organizations dedicated to  improving  the lives of  working  people.  The /BEW is  seen as one of the most honest in the business. Our record stands on it’s own. However, Unions aren’t perfect- nothing is. At least union officials are elected, and bad ones can be voted out. Remember, you, the employees, are the union.

Q: “WILL LOCATION CLOSE IF I VOTE FOR A UNION?”

A: It is against the law (NRLA) for the company to close or threaten to close because of union activity. Remember, companies go out of business because people stop buying their products, not because their workers are treated fairly. If all facilities like yours closed because they were unionized, many of them in the US would be out of business.

Q: “WHAT IF MY EMPLOYER CAN’T AFFORD A UNION CONTRACT?”

A:         No one wants your company to close, especially the /BEW, who represents the best interest of its represented workers. If the company says they can’t afford the wage and benefit increase the workers wan.t, we say it must prove its poverty by showing the union its financial records. Then we can make decisions together based on real information instead of company propaganda.

Q: “WHAT CAN WE EXPECT THE COMPANY TO DO TO TRY TO GET US TO VOTE AGAINST THE UNION?”

A: Usually the company tries to influence employees with scare-talk, anti-union speeches and letters. On the other hand, be prepared for the company to be on their best behavior until the campaign is over. Some companies even make improvements during a union campaig_n, hoping employees will forget about their past problems.

Q: “DOES THE COMPANY HAVE TO NEGOTIATE IF THE UNION WINS?”

A:         Yes. The law (NRLA) requires the company to bargain “in good faith” with the union committee and /BEW which the employees request, by majority, to represent them.

Q: “IS IT EASY TO GET A UNION IN?”

A:         No, it takes the work of many employees who are dedicated to helping their coworkers. And it takes the active involvement of as many employees as possible. Most of your time would be spent talking to your fellow workers on the job site during regular hours of work. However, there would need to be a few key meetings to ensure questions are answered.