Labor Unions: How to Start a Union

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 08, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As state legislators fled Wisconsin to protest the governor's attempt to deny state workers collective bargaining rights, state labor unions in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan also came under attack. If the apparent assault on collective bargaining in the Midwest has caused you to consider unionizing your workplace, here's a quick primer on how to start a union.

The National Labor Relations Act is designed to encourage and protect collective bargaining rights in the public sector. This means that unless you are a government employee, what's going on in the Midwest probably can't happen to you. The Act guarantees the right to form a labor union in a private workplace, as well as engage in union-related activities.

If you want to take advantage of the NLRA, the first thing you will need to do is figure out to which labor union you want to belong. Unions are usually profession or industry-specific, but there may be more than one that could apply to you and your coworkers. If this is the case, those of you who are spearheading the move towards unionization should figure out which one is the best for your situation. If you have trouble finding a local union, try contacting the AFL-CIO.

Once you've figured out which labor union you want to belong to, go ahead and contact them. After an initial meeting, the union should provide you with at least one organizer that knows how to start a union at your place of employment. The process involves a lot of meetings, communication, and eventually a vote.

When you start a union, your employer may not be particularly receptive. Remember that you have rights. The NLRA prohibits an employer from intimidating, retaliating against, and firing anyone involved in the unionization process. If you or your coworkers experience these sorts of problems, talk to your union organizer. And if you haven't yet picked a union, but are actively discussing it at work, contact a labor attorney--that kind of behavior may be illegal.

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