What Is a Strike Authorization Vote?

November 28, 2022

More than fourteen million Americans are members of a union of some sort, ranging from education, transportation, and government to healthcare, construction, and more. 

A union presents a collective to advocate for workers’ rights and allows them to pull together and negotiate for their contract needs. For instance, labor unions help employees achieve work benefits and privileges without fear of retaliation from their employers. 

Strike authorization votes are held within unions to ensure that the decision to strike rests with the majority of the union members, helping avoid wildcat strikes (strikes taken without the union leadership’s authorization), preventing union bossism, and discouraging corruption within the union. 

For a union to go on strike, it must be fairly voted upon and approved by its members. However, authorization of a strike via a union election does not guarantee that there will be a strike or work stoppage. 

Why Do Unions Go On Strike?

Union members typically turn to strikes when negotiations between management and a labor union fail to reach an agreement. The union members vote to authorize a strike, seeking to improve their working conditions, receive workers’ benefits, or secure better wages. 

For instance, a teachers union may be advocating for improvements within its schooling system, such as additional training, better pay, smaller class sizes, and hiring additional teachers. Going on strike or labor stoppage is a union’s response to its demands not being met by the management responsible.  

Most worker strikes are about better pay and improved working conditions. What happens when a union strikes? Without the threat of strike action, corporations continue to make larger profits while working conditions deteriorate and pay remains stagnant. Strikes are an integral part of a union’s bargaining tool and are sometimes the last legal option available to the union. 

Is a Strike Authorization Vote Necessary?

For a strike to be authorized, union members must vote in favor of the strike. While a strike authorization does not mean the strike will definitely happen, it gives the union authority to hold one in case negotiations fall through. All bargaining members of a union have the right to participate in such a vote and be given an opportunity to cast a ballot. 

In case the management and union come to an agreement, another vote is held where the members decide whether to accept or reject the new proposed contract. If the members reject the contract, negotiations are resumed, and a strike is held if they fail or until a tentative agreement is reached once again. 

How Can Union Members Vote?

Vote options for union members vary depending on the nature of the vote, local laws, and the bylaws of the organization. There are plenty of streamlined online voting systems catered especially to union elections to help them reach important decisions quickly and take the stress out of the voting process. 

What Constitutes a Successful Strike Vote?

A successful strike vote means that a simple majority (50% of the members plus one) in the bargaining unit have voted in favor of strike action. Only if the majority has been reached can the union call on the members for industrial action. 

What Are Union Bylaws for Online Voting?

The Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) is responsible for writing the instruction manual for union elections. The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) establishes the standards for conducting union officer elections. 

Unions are ever-changing entities, and it’s essential to keep updating your union’s bylaws, especially regarding guidelines for online balloting and elections. The bylaws should allow an online voting option to make voting quicker, more convenient, and more secure. 

Make sure to follow the established procedures for amending bylaws, especially if any changes require member approval and voting. We also recommend consulting an attorney throughout the process of organizing a strike authorization vote to ensure your union’s actions are in compliance with all local, state, and federal laws. 

If you’re changing your union’s constitution and bylaws to include online voting (through a reliable virtual voting tool like ElectionBuddy), it must be filed as an “amended constitution and bylaws” along with its annual report, as required by the OLMS. A parent union might also be required to review and approve bylaw changes for a local or affiliate chapter. 
Wondering what secret ballot elections for unions might be? We’ve got you–check out our latest post.

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