Am I still able to receive a wage increase and/or bonus after a petition to hold a union election is filed?
Once an employer is aware of serious union organizing activity, the law prohibits (with very limited exception) any change to wages, benefits, and certain other terms/conditions of employment.  Why?  Because a positive change could be considered a “bribe” to incent voters to remain union-free while a negative change could be considered “retaliation”, intended to discourage voters from unionizing.
 
If the union is not voted in on election day, the requirement to maintain the “status quo” ends.  If, however, the union is voted in, no unilateral change(s) is/are permitted (with limited exception) unless/until a formal agreement is reached between the parties.
 
Source/Reference: Section 8 pg. 29 of the Basic Guide to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
If I have a problem with my supervisor and file a complaint with the union, something will be done quickly, right?
Not exactly.  The union decides which complaints (grievances is the legal term) will be handled with the company. Sometimes the union will decide not to proceed with a particular grievance for political or other reasons. Also, the process is very structured, and can sometimes take many months or more to resolve.

You already have a skip-level complaint process you may use if you don’t feel your immediate supervisor is handling your issue properly. This is an advantage of the direct relationship we have now, and is lost if the union is voted in to represent you.

Do I have to vote?
You are free to choose: to vote for the union, to vote for the company, or to not vote at all.  However, keep in mind that if you do have a preference, by not voting at all you are leaving the decision up to a smaller group of employees.  The vote is counted as a majority OF THOSE WHO VOTE, not a majority of EMPLOYEES ELIGIBLE TO VOTE.  For more detail, you should read this page.
Is the union already in?

No.  The employees have an opportunity to vote on whether or not they would like a union to represent them, and the union must win more than 50% of the votes cast in order to become the representative of the employees. Note: it is 50% of the votes cast, not 50% of the number of the employee group. Only voters determine if the union will represent them or not.

These are some Frequently Asked Questions about unions, union campaigns and union representation. Click on each section to see a variety of questions and answers about that topic.

To ask your own question, or to see the answers to questions your fellow employees have asked, go here.

Questions about union organizing.

What is a union organizer? Unions generally employ a staff of representatives who function as “organizers.” Organizers are paid by the union to organize (that is, unionize) groups of employees or entire companies.

Am I under any obligation to talk with a union organizer? No. There is absolutely no obligation for you to talk with a union organizer.

The union organizer “promised” me an increase in wages and benefits. Can an organizer guarantee that my wages and benefits will improve under union representation? No. Union organizers are in the business of organizing workers. You can expect them to make promises about wages and benefits—and other issues—to get you to attend a union meeting or sign a union authorization card.   If an organizer promises a particular benefit, ask for that benefit in writing. It is highly unlikely that any organizer will be willing to put in writing any of their promises.

Why would union organizers make promises when, in reality, they are under no obligation to make good on their promises? Unions are a business like any other. They generate income through union dues. Union organizers have one task and that is to organize workers so the union can obtain increased income, i.e. more union dues. These organizers will tell you what they think you want to hear to get you to attend union meetings and vote for the union. If a union representative makes promises, ask for those promises in writing.

What are my rights during an organizing campaign and election?

If I signed an authorization card, do I have to vote for the union if there is an election? NO! Even if you signed a card, you can vote however you like in an election. The election is a secret ballot process. You do not sign the ballot and no one will know how you voted unless you tell them.

If I want to attend a union meeting, can I? Yes. It is your choice to attend – or not attend – a union meeting. Our hope is that you will not be interested in such meetings, but it is absolutely your choice and your right to attend union meetings if you want to. However, if you feel you are being threatened, intimidated, or harassed to attend a meeting, let your leader know. This is unlawful and you do not have to tolerate that type of treatment.

Can I oppose the union? Yes! You absolutely have the legal right to oppose the union. You also have the right to let other associates know your opinion and can voice your opinion in appropriate ways. For example, in conversations during break or lunch time, before or after work.

If I want to make flyers to show my support for the company, can I use the copy machine in the manager’s office? The law prohibits a company from assisting your efforts to oppose the union; however, you certainly have the right to actively campaign against the union. If you do choose to campaign against the union, you have to do that without company assistance.

Will I lose my job if I vote for the union? No. We believe that having a third party, including unions, between our employees and leaders is absolutely unnecessary, but where employees have chosen such representation, or been required by law to do so, we will pursue an honest, business-like approach in working with those representatives.

What kind of power does a union have?

Can a union prohibit our company from disciplining an employee who violates company rules? No. All employees are expected to comply with company policy, practice, and work rules. There are standards and expectations for all employees – regardless of whether employees are organized or union-free.

Can a union have a member of management removed because the union or employees think the manager is unfair? No. The company decides who its leaders are and where they will work, and does so fairly and honestly. Unions do not have a say in staffing, assignment or management of employees.

Can a union guarantee me job security? No. We set the strategic direction for the company – including decisions on employment levels, product development and product sourcing – with the long-term goal of returning shareholder value and maintaining global competitiveness. True job security for our employees comes when we are able to meet those two goals – it is not the result of any union contract.

What does it mean for a union to become my “exclusive bargaining representative”? It means the union would become your exclusive agent and spokesman in dealing with the company concerning all terms of employment. If the union is ultimately named as the exclusive bargaining representative, the individual employee loses the right to deal with his/her employer for him/herself. The employer must deal only with the union. See more about representation and collective bargaining here

How does voting work, and what happens after the election?

Will anyone know how I vote in the election? Not unless you tell them!. Under current labor law, the election is a “secret ballot” election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.

Do I have to vote if there is an election? No, you are not required to vote. However, the outcome of the election could have a tremendous impact on your job and working environment. It is your choice, but if you care, you should consider voting. 

How is the outcome of the election determined? The outcome of the election is determined by the number of votes actually cast, not the number of employees eligible to vote. That is why your vote is so important. The winner must have a simple majority. That’s 50% plus one of the votes cast. For example, if 100 employees vote, only 51 have to vote for the union for it to be successful in the election, and obtain the right to represent all bargaining unit employees at the facility.

If there is an election, is there a minimum number of employees who must vote for the election results to count? No. A majority of the employees voting determines the outcome. For example, if there are 200 employees in the facility, and only 100 of them decide to vote, the union can win the election if just 51 employees vote for the union. In that scenario, the union then becomes the collective bargaining representative for all 200 employees at the facility. That is why, if you care about the outcome, you should vote in the election. See this page for more details.

If the union wins the election, which employees does it represent? If the union wins the election, it will represent every employee in the bargaining unit who is eligible to vote. Not only does it represent those employees who voted for the union, it also represents those who voted against the union, as well as those who failed to vote. That is why your vote is so important.

If the union wins the election, do I have to join the union? That depends. If you are not in a Right to Work state, the union may try to negotiate with the company to require all employees who work in the facility to join the union and pay union dues or be terminated. At facilities in non-Right to Work states, new employees will usually have have 30-90 days to join the union, or the union can make the company terminate their employment.

Questions about dues, fees and other assessments.

Does it cost money to be a member of a union? Yes. In fact, over a period of time it can cost a great deal of money. Unions survive on the money they receive from their members in the form of dues, fees, fines and assessments. That is why they want you to become a member of their union. Union dues vary in amount from union to union. Generally, monthly dues are equivalent to two hours of pay. Think of it as working for the union the first two hours of every month, only they get paid for your labor, not you. 

What are union dues? Dues are fees you pay to “belong” to a union on a monthly basis. Union dues vary in amount from union to union. Generally, monthly dues are equivalent to two hours of pay. Think of it as working for the union the first two hours of every month, only they get paid for your labor, not you. In many cases, the union has the right to automatically raise dues every year—and often does (without employee vote). See more on this page.

How is the amount of union dues established and what would that money be used for? The union determines the amount of dues and fees. The union would also determine how your dues are spent. You should be aware that some of your money could be used to support political candidates of the union’s choice.

What are initiation fees? An initiation fee is the initial cost charged by a union to the employee for the “privilege” of joining a union.

What are union fines? Fines are charged against members by unions for violations of rules of the union constitution and bylaws. For instance, you may be fined for crossing a picket line, failing to attend a union meeting, or for conduct unbecoming a union member. When a union member is found guilty of having committed an offense, most unions “discipline” members by fining them for the offense.

What are assessments? Assessments are the “extra” costs of unionization that employees may be required to pay. They are expenses over and above the payment of normal dues, fees and fines. The most common reasons to charge members assessments are for strike funds, money for political contributions, and to help the union with its operating costs. These fees are not voluntary and must be paid in order to remain a member in “good standing.”

What is “check-off”? “Check-off” is a procedure whereby union dues, fees, fines and assessments are automatically deducted from the employee’s paycheck and given to the union before any wages are paid to the employee. Generally, this is the first item the union tries to attain in contract negotiations. Unions have been known to forego demands for greater associate wages and benefits to obtain “check-off.”

Questions about the collective bargaining.

Is it possible an agreement between the union and the company could result in less wages and benefits than I currently have? Yes. There is absolutely no guarantee that the union will negotiate any improvement in your wages and benefits. In fact, you could get more, you could get the same, or you could get less. If a union organizer promises better wages, ask for the promise in writing. It is highly unlikely that they will give you one.

If the union and the company are not able to agree during bargaining, what will happen? There are two options: (1) leave things the way they are; or (2) strike. Under current law, there is no guarantee that the union and the company will arrive at an agreement and sign a labor contract. It is possible for a union and a company to continue operations without a contract for years. Regardless, you will be responsible for paying dues, fees, fines and assessments.

Can the union “fix” anything or “force” the company to do anything? No. By law, the company does not have to agree to any union demands.

Read more about Collective Bargaining here.

Questions about strikes.

If a strike is called, does the company continue to pay wages and benefits to striking employees? No. Once a strike begins, all wages stop. You may retain some benefits, but this is not guaranteed. Once a strike is over, you do not get back-pay for the time you were out on strike. In addition, it is possible that accrual of credited service will be suspended during periods of strike activity.

Can I collect unemployment compensation while on strike? When striking over economic conditions (wages and benefits), most states do not allow employees to collect unemployment compensation.

Does the union provide strike benefits? Some unions provide strike benefits while others do not. Providing strike benefits is purely at the union’s discretion. The amount of strike pay is usually a small portion of employee’s normal pay. 

If I go out on strike, can I be replaced? Yes. If the union calls an economic strike (over wages and benefits), you can be permanently replaced by the company.

Can I come to work if I decide I do not want to strike anymore? Yes, provided you have not been permanently replaced, you can always choose not to strike and return to work. The union does not like it when union members “cross the picket line”, but it is your personal choice to work or strike. In addition, the union may fine you for “crossing the picket line.”

For more about Strikes, see this page.

Can we get rid of the union if we decide representation isn't working?

If employees vote in a union and we change our minds, can’t we just tell them to leave? No. If you select a union to be your bargaining representative, that union does not have to leave your facility just because you change your mind. In fact, employees will have to wait at least a year after a union is voted in before they can even try to remove the union (a process called “decertification”). The process of decertification requires another election. To be successful, the majority of those voting will have to agree that the union needs to go.  In most cases, unions strongly oppose decertification efforts by employees.

If employees want to decertify a union, can the company help with the process and legal fees? No. By law, the company will not be able to help you with the decertification process or legal expenses associated with decertification. Employees would be responsible for navigating the decertification process on their own and paying for all legal costs relating to the decertification process.

Get an insider’s perspective!

Joe Brock was literally born into the Teamsters union. His father was a top ranked union leader most of his life, and raised Joe on the picket lines and in the union halls. Joe eventually joined the ranks of union members, becoming an officer, a spokesman, and eventually the President of his large local.

Joe finally realized that the rhetoric he heard in the union halls and in organizing campaigns had very little to do with unions’ true agenda. Today, Joe works on behalf of workers across the country, giving them the inside scoop on how a union really operates, so that they can make an informed decision when it comes time to cast their vote in a union election.