Union Questions and Answers

Here are some answers to questions workers commonly have about unions, and responses to common anti-union claims made by employers.

Can I be fired for participating in the union campaign?
The law prohibits the employer from discriminating against people in any way because of their union activity (see the section on your rights. If an employer does harass or discriminate against a union supporter, the union files a charge with the National Labor Relations Board, and prosecutes the employer to the fullest extent. The best safeguard against the employer harassing anyone is for everybody to stick together and win their union. Without a union, management has a free hand to treat people as they please. But with a union, everyone has the protection of a union contract.

The employer says the union can't guarantee us anything. Can you?
The union can guarantee this: when workers stick together as a union, they have more bargaining power and more of a voice than when they do as individuals a stronger voice. When the union wins, you will negotiate a contract with the employer. We can make no promises about what the contract will contain--that is for you to decide when you vote on your contract. We can guarantee that the contract will be legally binding, and the union will make sure the contract is enforced.

My boss says we could lose the benefits we now have. Is that true?
The truth is that without a union your boss could take away those benefits tomorrow. With a union contract, the benefits you negotiate are secure (for more information on union health and welfare, follow the link). The purpose of forming a union is to win improvements in wages and benefits, not to lose them. On average, unionized workers earn a third more than non-union workers in wages and benefits. The employees vote on whether or not to accept a contract. Would you vote to accept a contract that took away your benefits? Think about it. If having a union meant that the employer could reduce your benefits, why would your boss be fighting the union so hard? Finally, it is against the law for the employer to retaliate against the union by taking away wages or benefits.

How do we go about getting a union at my workplace?
The first step is to talk to your coworkers about the union. Tell them why you want a union, and find out where they stand. Contact our organizing dept. for help in having this conversation. When you find enough of your coworkers who want a union, you can form a committee. The committee's job is to attend meetings and educate themselves about the union. Then they can educate their coworkers and help to dispel false information spread by management. Next, the majority of employees must sign authorization cards stating that they want to have a union. After a majority of workers have signed up, we can ask the employer to recognize the union, or file for an election. If we file for an election, then all the workers will have the chance to vote in a secret ballot election for the union. If the union wins a majority of the votes, amd the employer does not challenge the vote on legal grounds, then we can begin the process of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement.

What does signing the authorization card mean?
It means you want the union. Please do not sign the card just to get an election. The card is a commitment of support.

This text is adapted from Virginia Diamond's "Organizing Guide for Local Unions"

©2013 International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 99