Organizing FAQs

What is a union?

A union is an organization of employees seeking collective bargaining with their employer. By joining together as a single bargaining unit, workers are able to leverage their work against the company’s profits in order to ensure protections such as fair pay, workplace safety, affordable health care, etc. under a legally binding contract with the employer.

Who runs the union?
You and your fellow workers run the union. Proposals for negotiations are taken from our members through surveys, in-person consultation, or via a representative negotiating committee from the bargaining unit. The President of the Union works with an Executive Board of various members to allocate the Local Union’s finances and handle other Union business.

How does the union work?
After a majority of workers in your workplace vote for a union, a negotiating committee composed of co-workers will represent you. The negotiating committee will then survey workers to see what they want in their contract. With the assistance of union negotiators, the committee will bargain with management to negotiate a contract. Legally, both sides must bargain in “good faith,” meaning they must be willing to work together and reach an agreement on a contract. Issues typically discussed are wages, benefits, and working conditions. Once a majority of workers approve a contract, it immediately goes into effect.

What does signing an authorization card mean?
Signing an authorization card means you want the Union. Please do not sign just to get an election. The card is a commitment of support. It’s a card that shows you want to be represented by a labor organization, and authorizes the union of your choice to represent you. It will also be used as proof to the NLRB that a majority of employees wish to be represented for the purpose of collective bargaining.

By signing an authorization card, am I joining the union?
No. You are simply showing the union of your choice and the NLRB that you desire to be represented by a union.

Who sees the cards and signatures?
Only your chosen representative and the NLRB will see the authorization card. Only when the company has unlawfully disciplined a worker for their participation in an organizing campaign would the company ever know you signed an authorization card, and then only as evidence used to restore your job status.

Can I be fired for participating in the campaign?
First of all, the law prohibits your employer from discriminating against workers in any way because of their union activity. If an employer does harass or discriminate against a union supporter, the Union files a charge with the Labor Board, and prosecutes the employer to the fullest extent.

How many signatures does it take to get an election?
The NLRB requires a minimum of 30% to file a request for an election. The Union normally requires 65% before they file a petition, since it takes a majority to win.

How does an election work?
The NLRB likes to schedule an election within 42 days after receiving the petition. An agent from the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) office will conduct your secret ballot election. A simple majority of the votes cast in favor of union representation allows the Union to begin bargaining with the employer. No one, including the Board agent, will ever know how you voted unless you tell them. A simple majority of the votes cast is 50% plus one out of the people who vote. For example, if 100 employees vote, 51 are needed to win union representation.

Can we lose the benefits we have now if we unionize?
No. Threatening to take away your benefits is a commonly used scare tactic employers use to keep workers from forming a union. The purpose of forming a union is to win improvements within the workplace, not lose them. On average, unionized workers earn a third more than non-unionized workers.

Will the company close if the employees choose union representation?
Companies do not go out of business because they have a union or because the workers are treated fairly. Companies close because of market conditions or poor management. This is a scare tactic employers use to keep people from gaining a voice on the job. More non-Union companies close each year than unionized companies. Government studies have shown that a unionized firm is no more likely to close than any other company. With a Union contract, fair wages and working conditions, and a voice on the job, workers are more productive and the company will probably do better, not worse.

Won’t it cost the employer a lot of money if employees gain union representation?
In the short run, it’s true that unions cost employers more in terms of wages and benefits. But in the long run, that doesn’t necessarily hurt the employer. Many unions are good for employers as well as for the workers. The reason is simple: With a union, there is higher morale, and there is a mechanism for workers to have a voice in how the workplace operates. Also, management benefits when it gets input from the workers on how the operation could be run better.

What benefits can the union guarantee?
When workers come together with the strength of the union behind them, they have the power to bargain and a collective voice that could not be achieved otherwise. Because it is you, the workers, who make the decisions about your contract, no guarantees can be made. However, once the union is voted in, the contract will be legally binding and the union will make sure it is enforced.

Why do I have to pay union dues?
Like members of most organizations, we pay dues. Our dues bring large rewards in pay raises, benefits, job security, representation, and working conditions. The added pay and benefits workers receive through belonging to the union are much more than the cost of union dues. The dues are necessary to pay for organizers, legal assistance, support staff, rent, materials, etc. which are all needed to maintain good contracts and adequate representation. No one pays dues until workers have voted to accept a contract.

Won’t the union force me to go on strike?
The UFCW never forces anyone to strike. Members have the final say through a strike vote. The fact is that strikes rarely happen. The UFCW negotiates more that 1,500 collective bargaining contracts across the nation each year, and strikes occur in less than one percent of these negotiations.