What is a union?
A union is a group of workers who act together to improve their workplace. Having a union means having democracy at work. Without a union, decisions are made by your employer, with no input from the ones actually working on the floor— us. With a union, workers will have the power to negotiate with our employer as equals, work with a contract that guarantees our rights, and elect the people we want representing us.
What is a union contract?
A union contract, also known as a collective bargaining agreement, is a document negotiated between workers and the company. The contract sets forth the pay, benefits, policies and working conditions at the company. Before a contract goes into effect, you’ll get to vote on it.
What protection does a union provide?
Without a union, workers are “at will” employees, meaning the company can discipline or terminate them whenever they want except for discriminatory reasons that would violate human rights law (race, gender, religion, etc.). Unions can prevent unfair discipline or firings by negotiating a “just cause” clause in the collective bargaining agreement. This ensures that discipline and termination is acted on when there is a justifiable reason to do so.
What issues can we address by organizing?
Ultimately, that’s up to theworkers to decide. We will have the right to negotiate a union contract and have a real voice in setting organization policies, rights on the job, health and safety conditions, protections from unfair firings or unfair discipline, seniority rights, leaves of absence rights, benefits, wages, etc. Workplaces can be turned into a place where workers can have sustainable careers and be rewarded for their years of hard work.
How will we resolve issues in our unionized workplace?
Having a contract will give us due process and our elected worker representatives (called shop stewards) a way to stand up for our interests. With a union, if we have a problem on the job, we can still go to management on our own and try to resolve it without filing a formal grievance. But if we aren’t able to resolve it, then we will have the right to get another person involved and file a grievance and, if necessary, have a neutral judge, called an arbitrator, force the company to correct an unfair action. Without a union, the company has the final say and is essentially the judge and jury of their own case.
How do most employers respond to unions?
It varies. Many employers unfortunately fight the right of their employees to form unions. These employers who don’t respect the right of workers to form unions use an anti-union consulting firm that specializes in running very predictable, manipulative and dishonest campaigns of confusion and misinformation. A common tactic is when workers begin organizing a union, suddenly top managers or owners start showing great interest in the welfare of all workers. “How can we make things better?” They may even make some improvements in pay, benefits and working conditions just to buy time and try to convince workers to vote against the union. But with a union we can win all these improvements and more, all while getting to have a more equal relationship with our employers.
Can the company take away anything in retaliation for forming a union?
No, that is illegal. By law an employer cannot take any benefits away from you when you vote to have a union. Everything we have right now is where we would start in negotiations. The goal in negotiations will be to get improvements at work.
"With a union, you lose the ability to speak for yourself."
This is not true and is a common anti-union line. The union is not a substitute for standing up for ourselves – it is a means of doing so. Your voice is not lost in a union--your voice is amplified. Think about how many times you and your co-workers talked about changes you wanted to see in your store, but knew that they wouldn’t be implemented. Or think about a time that you may have been treated unfairly by management and couldn’t do anything about it. Having a union is a chance for your voice to be amplified by those of your coworkers and for you to do the same for them.