How Many Employees Are Needed to Form a Union?

February 14, 2023

A union is an organization aimed at improving labor conditions and created to provide workers with a voice and the right to discuss workplace issues with their employers. Unions have always been a powerful force for positive change in the workplace, upholding workers' rights, and promoting democracy. Union leaders are elected through democratic processes that ensure accountability to the men and women they represent worldwide. 

Unions proudly stand up for workers, making sure that directors and management are being responsible stewards of the workforce. Their unwavering dedication to ensuring humane and fair treatment of all employees is why unions remain a vital part of society today. 

Thirty Percent Pre-election Baseline Support

Forming a union is a major decision for employees and requires a sufficient number of members for it to be successful. In the United States, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) establishes the legal requirements for collective bargaining, including the process of forming a union through union elections. 

The NLRA states that in order for an employee organization to be recognized as a labor organization and be able to participate in collective bargaining with employers, it must have at least 30% of employees in the bargaining unit show support. Generally speaking, however, it is recommended that at least 50% of employees support the formation of a union before proceeding. This allows for enough momentum among workers to convince management or ownership to recognize their legitimate interest in collective action.

On demonstrating to the NLRA that the minimum number of employees are in favor—which can only be achieved by presenting documentation approved by the NLRA—an official election will take place in which employees vote on whether or not they wish to form a union. Union elections of this kind can be carried out in-house or with the assistance of an external body.


The process for how a union is formed can take several months but depending on the size of the company, how well organized the labor organizers are, and how strong employer opposition is, it can take up to several years. The process involves gathering signatures from workers who support unionization, seeking out supporters who may be reluctant or hesitant about becoming involved, holding private meetings for workers to discuss their concerns and receive information about unions, and organizing public rallies or other activities aimed at promoting unity among workers. 

Employers may challenge any claims that their businesses are large enough to require union representation under federal law by providing evidence such as payroll records or other business records indicating that they do not meet the threshold requirement.

In Conclusion

In order to successfully form a union, it is essential that workers become knowledgeable about their rights under federal labor laws and remain committed through whatever obstacles may arise during the process. While 50% support is suggested when beginning an organizing campaign around forming a union, 30% of support must be harnessed before proceeding with an election. 

Despite the figures, worker participation is key when moving forward with the establishment of a union. It is of vital importance to ensure the workforce is engaged and committed before starting the process, so as to have the greatest chance of success.

Curious about what it means to unionize a company? Be sure to check out our latest post!

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