How Is a Union Formed?

February 12, 2023

Forming a union is an important part of the labor movement in the United States. A union is an organization that helps protect the rights of workers and negotiates with employers on behalf of its members about working conditions such as pay, benefits, and discrimination. Forming a union requires employees to follow a series of legal steps. 

The process of creating a union is complicated, but the order of tasks is clear.

1. Organize and Mobilize the Workplace

The first step in forming a union is organizing the workplace. This involves bringing together employees who are interested in forming a union and deciding who will represent them in negotiations. Usually, the desire to form a union will come as a result of one or more disagreements between employers and employees. 

It's important to keep all communication confidential and focus on building consensus among participants. Employees should research their rights as workers, understand their collective bargaining goals, and discuss how to best achieve those goals. It is essential that there is support from enough employees in the workplace for the formation of a union to be viable. 

This step requires going into the workplace and speaking with other employees to address their concerns or questions and encouraging them to join the motion to form a union, either through a union election online or via an email campaign.

How many employees are needed to form a union? 30% of the workforce must sign documentation saying they are in support of an official election, and then a majority must be in favor of forming a union from the results of this election.

2. Establish Representation

Once there is enough support from workers, it's time to officially establish representation by filing paperwork with either the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) or state labor agencies, depending on where you're located. This ensures that all communications between employers and employees are handled legally, ethically, and fairly, according to labor laws. 

During this stage, it can be helpful to hire attorneys who specialize in labor law so that your interests are properly represented during negotiations, both when dealing with employers directly or at hearings before government officials.

3. Negotiate Contracts

What does unionizing do to advance the rights of workers? The next step will make that clear. Once a workplace has been unionionized, the two parties must negotiate contracts which outline wages, benefits, job security measures, job responsibilities, and any other issues related to employment rights or safety regulations in the workplace. 

This process typically involves sitting down with representatives from both sides—unions representing workers' interests and employers presenting their own views. Negotiations often involve compromises being made by both sides until an agreement can be reached which satisfies everyone involved.

4. Carry Out Voting and Ratification Processes

Once contracts have been negotiated between unions and employers, they must go through vote tallies amongst union members before they can be officially ratified by both parties. Unions need approval from their members and employers must accept whatever terms were agreed upon during negotiations in order for contracts to be validly enforced under U.S. law. It's important for union members to carefully read over documents before signing them, since these contracts are legal agreements and cannot be broken afterwards.

In Summary

Forming a union is a complex legal process and it isn’t something which can be done from one day to the next. It involves organizing in the workplace, filing proper paperwork with either federal or state agencies, and negotiating contracts and voting on those contracts before they can be ratified by all parties involved. When these processes are carried out fairly and effectively, a union can put its weight behind workers’ rights and ensure those rights are enforced.

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