Your Right to Organize

Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employees have the legal right to form a union in the workplace.

The NLRA says:

Section 7

“Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organization, to bargain collectively through representation of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activites for the pupose of collective bargaining…”

Section 8(a)

“It shall be an unfair labor practive for an employer… to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the right guaranteed in section 7…” 

You can and are legally entitled to the right to form a union in your workplace and an employer cannot stop you from doing just that.

How to Organize

Employee Organizing Committee

The backbone of a successful campaign is a strong employee organizing committee. These are the people who feel strongly enough about working under a union contract to motivate the rest of the crew during the tough times of the campaign and to communicate information from various sources throughout the process. The organizing committee should be large and representive of different classifications, shifts, and other groupings among the crew.

Making Lists

It is critical that a complete crew list be constructed as soon as possible. Throughout an organizing campaign it is imperative that the organizing committee and union staff are able to communicate with employees quickly and easily.  The crew list needs to include contact information such as employees’ names, phone numbers, emails, and home addresses. It should also include information on the employees’ roles in the workplace:  job classifications, departments, and shifts.

Authorization Cards

After a strong organizing committee is in place and the committee members have determined that their co-workers support unionizing, that support is formalized through documents called “authorization cards.” These are post-card sized forms authorizing the IATSE to represent employees for purposes of collective bargaining. It is important to understand that your signed card serves as a pledge of your commitment to the organizing process.

Authorization cards serve to test and demonstrate that a solid majority of employees are committed to forming a union. While the EMPLOYER WILL NOT SEE WHO SIGNED THE CARDS, the employer will never know how many cards were signed. The more cards we have, the stronger our message.

Voluntary Recognition

Once we have enough cards, we usually contact the company to ask for voluntary recognition. The process for voluntary recognition involves a “card check” by a neutral party (usually a registered arbitrator) who compares the employer-provided crew list to the signed authorization cards.  In cases of voluntary recognition, a company agrees to recognize the union and negotiate a first contract once the neutral third party has confirmed that a majority of the crew has signed cards.

Prepare for a Union-Busting Counter-Campaign

When an employer refuses to honor the “card check” process, we have the option of using authorization cards to petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to conduct a government-supervised election.  If an employer will not honor the will of the majority of the employees, as reflected in the signed authorization cards, it is likely that employer will mount an anti-union counter-campaign in advance of an NLRB election.
Usually run by outside “union busting” law firms who are retained specifically for the purpose of dissuading employees from exercising their right to collective bargaining, anti-union or “Vote No” campaigns can be very effective. Unless the crew has the solidarity and courage to outlast these attacks, a campaign can be derailed.  A strong organizing committee is instrumental to maintaining solidarity and morale in the face of the employer’s efforts to discourage union support.
Most “Vote No” campaigns follow a two-pronged approach:  they attempt to instill fear of the unknown and they attempt to win back the trust of the crew. The fear tactics are the easiest to identify: the “Vote No” campaign typically emphasizes strikes and layoffs, corrupt “union bosses,” the cost of union dues, and the fact that there are no guarantees when a contract is negotiated. The attempt to win back trust is a bit more complex: managers start talking about “open door” policies, speak of the company as a “family,” ask for “one more chance” to do right, and tell the crew that things will change for the better.
Don’t be fooled; the promises they make during the “Vote No” campaign usually don’t last for long once the election is over. If they really mean to do right by you, they can do it in a union contract where you’ll be guaranteed that it won’t be taken away.

The NLRB Election

On Election Day, agents of the NLRB arrive at the pre-determined time and place to set up a portable voting booth. During the hours when the polls are scheduled to be open, employees can cast their votes indicating whether or not they want union representation.  The votes are by secret ballot and the conduct of the election is overseen by the NLRB.
Once the polls are closed, a Board agent will count the ballots.  All interested parties are entitled to witness the count.  If a simple majority (50% plus one) of the ballots cast are in favor of representation by IATSE, the employer is legally obliged to recognize the union and to enter into contract negotiations.
On the day of an NLRB election, we need every single union supporter to vote. Although a simple majority is legally sufficient to win the election, the bigger the margin of our victory, the stronger the message we send and the more leverage we have at the bargaining table.

Collective Bargaining

After we win the election, the NLRB grants the union recognition and issues a “certification of representation” to the union. The employer is then legally required to “negotiate in good faith” with the union. At this point, some or all of the organizing committee transitions into the Negotiating Committee. These individuals attend all bargaining sessions and keep their co-workers apprised of the negotiation progress. Continuous unit building during the negotiating phase is essential to maintain momentum and keep up pressure until the successful conclusion of our endeavor.