How Does a Union Win a Workplace Election?

January 13, 2023

If you're wondering how a union can win a workplace election, the answer is quite simple—they mobilize their members and encourage people to vote, whether they’re using voting software for union elections or conducting in-person elections.

To do this, unions must ensure that their members understand the benefits of unionization and why it is important for them to take part in the election. Unions must also be sure to educate employees about their rights.

This process doesn't happen overnight, and there are a series of important events that occur before a union wins a workplace election.

What Does It Mean to Win a Workplace Election?

In simple terms, this phrase refers to the actual election process whereby union representatives and workers vote on forming a union and establishing collective bargaining rights.

The two major parties competing in the election are the union and the employer. If a majority of votes favor forming a union, the union wins the election. If not, the employer succeeds in keeping the workplace non-unionized.

Keep in mind that this is different from how a union elects its officers–in this post, we’ve described how to organize a union election

Steps to Winning a Workplace Election

Although there are a few exceptions, winning a workplace election generally follows the following steps:

  1. Educate and mobilize members—The union organizing committee must make sure that workers understand the importance of unionizing, and why it is beneficial for them. The committee must also spread awareness about the election process, motivate their members, and encourage them to participate in the election.
  1. Obtain signatures—Unions must collect signatures from the workers that support unionization. This is usually done by filing a petition signed by at least 30% of workers in the workplace. However, most unions don't announce that they represent a workplace until they receive signatures from at least half the workforce.
  1. Confront the employer—Once the necessary signatures are obtained, the union must confront the employer. This can be done through a formal notification process, or by directly contacting the employer to inform them of the workers' desire to unionize.
  1. Negotiate an agreement—If the employer recognizes the union and agrees to negotiate, then the union must create a contract that is beneficial for its members and the employer. This contract should touch on working hours, wages, benefits, and workplace conditions. However, if the employer fails to negotiate, then the union approaches the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
  1. Wait for an NLRB hearing—Once the NLRB is approached, it will conduct a hearing to determine whether the employer is covered by its jurisdiction, whether there is enough support to justify an election, and whether there are any unfair labor practices involved.
  1. Hold the election—If the NLRB decides that there is enough support for a union, it orders the employer to create a voter list and post election notices in the workplace. It will then schedule a secret-ballot election in which members of the union as well as non-members cast their votes to form a union or not. 
  1. The decision—After the votes are tallied, it is determined whether or not a union has won the workplace election. If the union has won, it becomes the sole representative of workers in that workplace and begins to draft a contract with the employer.

How to Ensure the Workplace Election Is Free and Fair

Of course, a workplace election is a high stakes process, and it must be conducted in a free and fair manner. To ensure that this happens, there are some guidelines that should be followed:

  1. No intimidation—Employers must not threaten or intimidate workers during the process, as it creates an unfair environment for those who wish to unionize.
  1. No interference—Employers must not interfere in any way with the election process, such as by attempting to influence the vote or providing inaccurate information about unions. We recommend using a secure online voting platform that offers third-party election management. 
  1. No bias—The employer must provide equal access to both sides and not favor one over the other.
  1. No retaliation—Employers must not retaliate against any workers who choose to unionize.

Following these guidelines helps ensure the workplace election process is conducted fairly and that workers are provided an opportunity to make their voices heard.

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