The decision to try to form a union is one of the most important choices you can make for yourself and your family. It’s a well known fact that union members earn, on average, 29% better pay and are more likely to have the kind of benefits that matter most. With the changes the National Labor Relations Board will impliment April 30th, 2014; union organizing is expected to rise. More than 50% of Amerivcan workers admit they would like to be in a union, but the corporate lobby and their underlings have made the ordeal of organizing gruelling.
Having a UNION in place and working under a well defined union contract is any worker’s best defense for making it to the middle class and staying there. It also makes the employer live up to their promises. The story of American labor is America’s hidden history.
Being union isn’t easy and requires a commitment from anyone who’s a member. You have to attend your union’s meetings where you and your co-workers will discuss and debate often complex and confusing issues. There will be disagreement, but being union also requires that you remain objective and try to reach a consensus that best serves the entire membership.
Then there are union dues. This is the money that you pay by paycheck deduction for the operation and maintenance of your union. You do have a say in the amount by using your vote, but in the end, there will be some people who resent having to pay to be a member. Remember, being union you stand to earn an average of 29% better wages, plus have meaningful benefits to fulfill and protect your financial obligations. Compared to these advantages, dues are a very small percent of your base pay. It’s a trade off, but one that’s tilted in your favor!
One of the biggest hurdles to being union is simply human nature. There are some people who are out solely for themselves and have no sense of community or shared responsibility for their co-workers. They are quick to criticize and complain and slow to congratulate and praise. This said, if you really believe that joining a union is the right thing to do, you have to be considerate and compassionate enough to genuinely care for the well being of everyone you work with, even the ones you may not be best friends with.
Forming a union isn’t easy either. If you don’t believe it, just read about Local 304’s journey to becoming union. Some companies would rather spend MILLIONS of dollars hiring lawyers from firms that specialize in “labor relations”, but what we call “union-busting”. These seasoned and diabolical schemers work behind the scenes with management to scare, confuse, and create suspicion and anger between you and your co-workers.
There are also political forces at work who push for “Right-To-Work” legislation that provides no rights and no work but instead are specifically designed to destroy a unions ability to support and defend their constituents. They have well funded PACs that subvert our political process for the benefit of a small influential minority by taking away from the working majority. They buy politicians with huge campaign contributions, offer outrageous and extravagant perks, and sometimes even offer these scoundrels a guaranteed executive position in their huge Washington lobbying firms if they’re voted out. All together, these are formidable forces to keep you from saying “UNION YES”!
You will have help if you, and a few brave souls like you, decide to start an organizing campaign, but you’ll also do a lot of the heavy lifting too. So, how do you get started?
1. Talk about it among some of your closest and most trusted co-workers. People you know who won’t run straight to management with the hot news that so-and-so is talking union at work.
2. If there is enough interest, meet outside of work and set up your organizing committee. This can be done at one of your homes, at a coffee shop, in a church basement, or the backroom in a house of ill repute! It doesn’t matter. You need a chairman, someone who is authorized to conduct your organizing efforts outside of the workplace. Then, as a committee, you’ll have to share ideas about how to introduce the idea to your co-workers.
3. Next, do some research and pick a union. You want to look for active unions that have a strong commitment to organizing. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not AS important that the union be heavily invested in your specific industry (sometimes if you have an local and successful union near you, you may better off to start there). The UWUA is a great place to look!
4. Set up a meeting with an organizer. This person can answer your questions, direct you in proven and winning strategy, lay out what the union can and can’t do for you and what the union expects from you and your committee. The organizer will also know the rules and regulations of unionizing and the protections and limitations offered by federal law, under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
5. Start Your campaign. Be ready. This is done by asking coworkers to sign union authorization cards (you may think you know someone well but that may change when you present them with a card to sign). Once you have enough cards signed, your organizer will file for an election to be held by the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB notifies your employers of the petition and sets the date for the election.
6. Win your election. Chances are your employer will not welcome a union in with open arms and will fight your effort with lies and distortions straight from a union busters tool box.
7. Get your first contract. You and your union will bargain with your employer your wages, benefits, working conditions, and other mandatory subjects of bargaining.
8. BE UNION STRONG! The solidarity of YOU and your coworkers will DIRECTLY effect the quality of the contract your employer agrees to. Your solidarity gives those negotiating the real power they need to bargain for the things important to the membership.
You will find established unions in your community who, through your organizer, will be glad to lend a hand, talk to you and your coworkers about what being union means to them.