What Does It Mean When Workers Unionize?
Written by Cooper & Friedman PLLC on February 14, 2023
If there has ever been an ambivalent term used in the news, it’s unionize. Workers unionize, unions being blocked, union strikes – it’s used in every way imaginable with all sorts of stigmas attached to it, good and bad. But what does it actually mean when you hear that workers are unionizing?
What Is a Union?
A union is a worker-driven organization that helps balance the power dynamics between the workers of industries – usually trade industries – and the people higher up that own the companies and oversee employment wages, environment, scheduling, and benefits. A union is further defined by the US Department of Labor as “a group of two or more employees who join together to advance common interests such as wages, benefits, schedules and other employment terms and conditions.”
So, not only does a union represent a group of workers as a whole and hold higher-ups accountable, but they’ll take action if working conditions aren’t upheld to a fair standard.
This is why unions have such variable viewpoints attached to them – workers usually hold them in high regard because they get them more favorable working conditions, while consumers can feel like strikes that cause prices to increase or destabilize the economy are selfish when it directly affects them like that. And, of course, the higher-ups in companies and industries can potentially feel threatened or extorted into terms that aren’t beneficial for the business as a whole or tip the scales in the other direction unfairly.
This feeling of unions being a threat isn’t new, though – labor unions were struck down unfairly until 1935, when the government finally passed the National Labor Relations Act, which is also known as the Wagner Act, that required and still requires businesses to bargain in good faith with any union supported by the majority of their employees.
How Do Workers Unionize?
Workers unionize by a collective agreement. In a simplified process, unionization requires either 3 or 6 steps.
- Employees decide they want union representation
- Written statements are collected from 30% or more of the bargaining unit
- The union is brought to the employer, who accepts it and negotiates
In the case that the employer rejects the union, an additional 3 steps are required:
- The bargaining unit takes their signed interest cards to a labor agency
- The labor agency holds a private ballot vote for all bargaining unit members
- The union if certified if a majority of the bargaining unit votes in favor of union representation
The employees of a company as a whole are titled a ‘bargaining unit’ when talking about unions, and in order to start the process, a bargaining unit must provide enough written statements showing interest in being represented by a union to be considered. This can come in the form of signed union interest cards, petitions, or any other written form of proof.
After a majority of the bargaining unit has identified interest in a union, the union can be brought to the employer and they can then either voluntarily accept the union and begin negotiations or they can reject the union. At this point, the bargaining unit showing 30% or more of the members wanting union representation must go through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) or another labor agency to ask for certification.
Going this route adds an extra, private ballot vote. Each member of the bargaining unit votes on this secret ballot, and if the majority of the voters are in favor of union representation, then the labor agency has the power to certify the union, and the employer is legally-bound to bargain in good faith with them.
Why Would Workers Unionize?
Workers unionize for several reasons, but mainly because they want a say in company decisions that affect them, protection from unfair treatment, and the ability to reach desired wages, policies, and benefits. Transparency is oftentimes seen to be easier when union leaders are in the thick of company decisions and reasoning – all in all, it has the potential to create a better understood employer-employee relationship and a better working condition for each individual worker.
Call Cooper and Friedman
If you’ve attempted to unionize due to dangerous conditions on the job or multiple injuries, you might benefit from employing a seasoned workers’ compensation lawyer. Cooper and Friedman have worked with countless injury victims, and we care that you were injured in the workplace just as we have for all the other cases we’ve represented and won. Don’t wait to contact us or call for a free case consultation to see if you can receive compensation for your work injury.
If you or someone you love has been a victim of unfair workers’ rights or workers’ compensation in the State of Kentucky and are in need of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney, give the lawyers at the Cooper & Friedman law firm a call. The attorneys at Cooper and Friedman PLLC have over 50 years of combined experience defending the rights of work injury victims. Contact us with questions you might have or schedule a free case consultation with an attorney by calling 502-459-7555 today.