• 3-30-2009
Basically, you sign a "union card" (a card that indicates that you would like to
form a union at your workplace). If a majority of employees sign such a card, the
cards are given to a government agency (for most workers, that's the NLRB - The
National Labor Relations Board) which then schedules and oversees a secret
ballot election to see if the employees really do want a union. If a majority votes
"Yes" then a union is formed, with which the company must bargain over wages,
benefits and working conditions.
How do I start?
The first step involved is, obviously, your decision to organize. You should also
have some confidence that at least half of the workers at your workplace would be
inclined to join a union. If possible, try to form a small committee of employees
dedicated to the idea, but keep things quiet. (The longer it takes management to
find out about the unionization attempt, the better.) Next, you must decide what
union you wish to approach, if any. (You do not need to affiliate with any union;
it is possible to form your own, independent union if you so wish, and labor law
will protect your independent union just as any large, international union.) Talk
to as many unions as you can, find out what they have to offer, how they organize,
resources, etc. Don't be afraid to approach any union, regardless of their name:
bookstores have been organized by the Longshoremen, office workers by the
United Auto Workers. A good place to get phone numbers for unions is under
"labor organizations" in the yellow pages.
Once you have chosen a union, you need to determine what you want the
"bargaining unit" to be. That is, who at your workplace will be able to be in the
union and who will not. You should include workers that have common duties,
interests and similar pay. Managers and security guards cannot be included.
Once you have decided what you would like the bargaining unit to be, (the
"official" bargaining unit will be determined at a National Labor Relations Board
hearing.) you will most likely begin having people sign union cards. These "cards"
may be actual cards, or simply a petition. The cards or petition will indicate that
the person signing the card would like a union to represent him or her in contract
talks regarding wages, benefits, and working conditions, and are completely
confidential (the employer never sees them). It is important to get a person's
signature and the date on these cards, or they will not be considered valid.
Once 30% of the people in the bargaining unit sign the cards, you are entitled to
submit them to the National Labor Relations Board, which views 30% as asufficient number to warrant an election that, if won, will certify the union in
your workplace. Unofficially, you should get as many signatures as you possibly
can. To win the election, you need a majority to vote "yes" and it is not unusual
for some individuals who signed cards to end up voting "no." A good rule-ofthumb
is that if you can't get at least 60% of the people in the bargaining unit to
sign cards, you won't win the election.
Once you are ready to submit the cards to the NLRB (which entails handing the
cards to an official and filling out a form), you should mail a certified letter to
management indicating that you wish the union to be recognized. This is just a
formality, as management will almost always refuse to recognize a union without
an election. Once you have submitted the cards, the NLRB will contact the
employer to schedule a hearing to determine the actual bargaining unit, and to
schedule the election. At the hearing, the company will most likely try to pack the
bargaining unit with workers that are likely to vote no, and try to challenge
workers that are likely to vote yes. The union's lawyer will most likely handle
things at this stage, so don't worry too much.
Once the bargaining unit is made final, the NLRB will schedule the date of the
election. The election is secret ballot, overseen by an NLRB agent, with the ballot
asking the question, "Do you want the "whatever union" to represent you in
contract talks with "whatever employer?"" or something similar. A "yes" vote is
for the union, a "no" against. A simple majority wins.
If you win: congratulations! The company must enter into contract talks with the
union regarding wages, benefits, and working conditions.
If you lose: you must wait at least one year before trying again.
There are other options, of course: one need not rely on the NLRB process to win
recognition to bargain for a contract. Employees can also try to force an employer
to recognize them as a union through work actions such as strikes. This can be
done even if an election was lost, although if you didn't have the strength to win
the election, you may not have the strength to force recognition. (You can
redefine your bargaining unit to increase your chances. For example, if your unit
included factory workers and office staff, and the office staff voted against you in
sufficient numbers to cause you to lose the election, you might try to get just the
factory workers, where there is more solidarity, recognized.)

Comments (54)

Dennis Allington
Said this on 4-11-2010 At 12:25 pm

hoe do I get a union going for all the truck drivers of america going

Said this on 6-8-2010 At 12:14 pm

How do I start a union for independent musicians?

Said this on 9-23-2010 At 01:40 pm

Hi Tanesha, your question is one of the ones myself and some of my fellow musicians along with some college professors and students have been working on.  If you would send me your email I will keep you up to date with what we are doing in that reqard.  Also you may want to look up Cortney Love's letter in reference to the same issues for working musicians.  I dont particularly agree with her approach as I dont believe it is grassroots (or cover the little people), but that is my analysis.  My email is

Blair Bess
Said this on 12-18-2010 At 10:40 pm

A union is a union is a union... Whether you're an "independent" artist or represented by a big management company or agent, you CAN be a part of a union.  AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, represents sound recording artists.  AFTRA can be joined without having to have worked professionally.  Because so many of its members in the early days of television and radio were actively seeking work, you can join "with the intent of seeking work."  There are other musicians unions as well with locals throughout the country like the American Federation of Musicians.

Said this on 10-29-2011 At 09:38 am

Please, email me... I am starting a Union.


Thank You in advance...


Tim Clark, Owner

The SNN Companies

Said this on 7-31-2010 At 05:02 pm

I would like to have more information on starting a union in my ex work place. 

Please get intouch with me on how to go about this project.



Lourdes Weisgerber
Said this on 10-12-2010 At 11:55 pm

I am a travel/per diem RN. We get tossed around a lot and our contracts can get cancelled without giving us a reason and letting us rebut the allegations. We work for different travel nurse agencies and the agencies always side with the hospitals, therefore, if we lose our job, no one helps us. Our salaries go down, instead of up, we can get cancelled, even when we get to our the assigned place of work and, even though we are supposed to get 2 hours pay, we don't. 

How can we start a union when we work for different agencies and and all over the country?


john holt
Said this on 10-23-2010 At 10:29 pm

Is there a social workers union? More specifically, Licensed Clinical Social Workers. Underpaid, overworked, and unappreciated. We need help.

Said this on 10-26-2010 At 06:40 pm

How do I locate or start a union for an insurance company's employees? These employees either directly process, adjudicate &/or adjust professional and institutional claims or work in position that directly affects the process.

Said this on 11-30-2010 At 08:14 pm

How do I start a dental workers union? This could include all assistants, hygenists, and other members working in a dental office if applicable... Just looking for some equality and representation instead of standing alone without a voice. Any help out there???

Said this on 12-9-2010 At 07:08 am

How do I start or locate a union for child care providers? I work for an early learning center and we work in unfit conditions with low pay and we are unappreciated.  When we ask for help from management, many times we are looked over. Please help.

Paolo D'Abarno
Said this on 3-1-2011 At 01:03 pm

How can I form a Dump Truckers Union ? For companies and work force. In the North Georgia area.

Said this on 3-1-2011 At 08:26 pm

Where do get a union card?

Curtis Owens
Said this on 4-18-2011 At 11:22 am

How can i start a local culinary union in oregon?

Can't Say
Said this on 4-23-2011 At 01:18 pm

So what if I work for FedEx (a smaller OpCo) and its only my department that wants a Union? (approx 80 people)  Do we have to have cards for all other departments? the entire OpCo? Hopefully not the entire FedEx Org? They have been fighting unions for years!

Said this on 5-1-2011 At 10:39 pm

I am employed by a nationwide transcription company and work from home.   We need guidance as to how to go about the NLRB process.  There are many of us working for different large nationals across the country with similar problems with lack of work due to overrhiring, loss of shift differential, overtime, among other things.  We are contacting various unions.   We ourselves are home-based in different states across the country.  Any guidance you could provide would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you.

Said this on 5-15-2011 At 03:07 pm

I'm an Esthetician, I work in the Spa business. Initially salon and spa staff receive a commission. Massage Therapists and Estheticians can get from 40% to 65%. It is now starting to become less and less. Spa owners are taking out fee's such as product and credit card charges made to the owner. Owners are over hiring and have too many of the same  type of therapists trying to get a customer. I've worked in a salon that if a customer refuses to pay for service rendered or a check bounces from the customer, the spa/salon owner will not pay the therapists for that service.

Spa's and salon's should be cleaned and sterilized like a hospital. Spa owners should  have professional cleaning done at least once a month. They rely on the staff to clean which is not enough to really make a dent. People expose their bodies to the spa, walk around without shoes and must shower and use the toilet. This is a grave concern for me. An infection can be easily picked. When someone brings a flu/virius bug in, everyone eventually catchs it. Products like Barbicide is used, but not on everything. Cleaning is not done everyday.

Spa owners feel the customer is always right, but in fact there are people who intentionally go around taking advantage of customer service so to get free services/products etc. Some Spa owners will expect to fine you for this action and remove it from your pay. Commission workers in VA are not treated the same as hourly workers. We're not protected when business is slow. We don't have a say about how to market the salon or spa business with the owner.

Said this on 1-7-2012 At 10:31 pm

I'm a hair stylist in Tx. I went on the site to see if theres a way to make a hairstylist/spa employee union. Our industry is getting out of control and I am wittnessing so many salons gain power and literally screw their employees. Right now my salon is trying to force us all to sign contracts that give us no rights and completely protects them, and theres nothing out there to protect this from them.

Said this on 5-19-2011 At 05:27 pm

How do I start a unions for those who don't want be on Obamacare? If I create a new nonlabor unions, will I be able to waive myself and other members from it?

I am thinking of calling it "The Constitution, Local 1776". Anyone interesting in joining?

Said this on 5-31-2011 At 06:55 pm

I work for a nursing home as a certified nurse assistan.  Wet are belittled about our customer service everyday.  A a cna what we do doesn't matter we get wrote up for  about mostly any and everything.  Our jobs aren't secured.  What I want to know can a union be formed in health care field to protect us from low wages and no benefits and prtect us from being the victum of abuse from our employer. 

Sincerely yours

Certified Nurse Assistant

Courtney Gordon
Said this on 5-22-2012 At 03:01 am

I am also interested in starting a CNA/Care Giver/ HHA union (we should be in touch) and we should ask the Nursing Unions for help. 

Said this on 6-3-2011 At 07:42 am

Are physicians allowed to form a union to negotiate with insurance carriers, since they are in different offices and have different employers? 

keisha woods
Said this on 6-9-2011 At 07:47 am

how do i start a union for a  cable company?

Said this on 6-22-2011 At 11:41 am

I'm interested in forming a Union for Medical Assistants in my company. They no longer contribute to our 401K and they are not giving any raises to any of us (even if we are not in the pay range that we should be in). Any information or direction would be greatly appreciated.

Said this on 6-24-2011 At 05:23 pm

i am intrested in starting a union for the hospitality works, wounderd if anybody could shed some light on where to start and if it is a good idae???

Sasha Montgomery
Said this on 7-4-2011 At 08:47 pm

I work for a company in which most of the employees are part of a union and only a handful of us are not.  The union members have a slightly different job description than we do (and I stress slightly).  But, there are only 6 of us in the whole company (the rest are a different job description) that are not in the union- thus we get paid minimum wage while the other individuals get paid $25/hr.  The six of us want to unionize, but is that enough people to form a union? And could the company decide to fire us for trying to do so and just replace us with people who are fine with getting paid minimum wage?

Said this on 7-19-2011 At 10:56 am

Certified Nursing assistants are getting paid low wages.  We do anything from cleaning a dead body to lifting overweight residents to bathing and feeding.  Can there be a way for these million dollar corporations to significantly raise our wages?

Mark M.
Said this on 7-27-2011 At 10:10 am

I'd like to start  a union for printers. I work for a large global document management company and there are thousands of us that are underpaid, over worked, and our benefits are horribe. I have a feeling that if we were to organize, they'd have no choice but to accept. This would allow us to collect a fair wage for the work we do. Any help would be appreciated.

Ken davis
Said this on 8-15-2011 At 11:59 am
How can I start a movers union for metro Boston? Is this feasible?
Said this on 8-16-2011 At 10:40 am

We are looking to form a lifeguard union. Does anyone have the same aspirations? 

Said this on 9-8-2011 At 03:31 pm

How should I go about starting a union for an outsourcing call center?

Said this on 10-26-2011 At 11:28 pm

Is there already a tech support union somewhere? I am a computer repair specialist, working for a bpo, we are underpaid (well below the labor average minimum of the nation for the job) and would like to see change, I am thinking of starting up one and I know most of the folk in my department would jump on board, but I am wondering if one already exists.

Said this on 11-2-2011 At 04:28 pm

hello, i work for a psd company, and was wondering if we could go union, we also have board members.  Any info would be great


Mark Sullivan
Said this on 12-1-2011 At 11:09 am

I would like to start the International Brotherhood of Information Technologies ( IBIT ) this would include everyone every where in the computer fields we keep this country running and yet we get put down low pay and no recognition for what we do.

Big man
Said this on 12-11-2011 At 09:33 pm

How do I sart a Bouncers Union ??

Abraham Martin
Said this on 1-17-2012 At 03:46 pm

Hawaii does not have a taxicab drivers' union. Cab drivers have asked

me to form one, mainly to help them fight back injustice from cab

companies and other entities' suppression, oppression, robbing, etc ..

I need to find out how to form a union legally and will be able to defend the cab drivers in a court of law. We do not have money to

retain a lawyer so I must be able to represent them. I understand that a corporation must be represented by a lawyer. What about uions?

Marvin Easterly
Said this on 1-23-2012 At 10:19 pm

Southwest florida has a good amount of window installers.The problem is we all go to and from, company to company .Always the same reason is to be payed for our labor.Whether this is new construction or replacement .the demand for hurricane protection or IMPACT glass is high.This is increasely getting lower .If anyone has lifted any glass or installed impact glass that this is not for the week and fly by night handyman.Those of us that have been hear have stuck with it and all know each other because we are the only ones that can handle it.Like brother and sisters .Its time to stand up for our selfs and be heard!

Said this on 2-18-2012 At 09:06 pm

How do I start a security guard union in Los Angeles, CA?

Said this on 2-24-2012 At 12:11 am

how can i start a AAA tow truck union?

Said this on 3-19-2012 At 03:36 pm

Can a person who represent management in the Human Resource department also be apart of the union?

Said this on 3-20-2012 At 11:08 pm

How do I start a union for real estate appraisers, we really need one.


Said this on 7-11-2012 At 09:03 pm

theres already a union, check out the opeiu-appraisers

Said this on 4-11-2012 At 02:35 pm

Is it possible to start a union for employees of an organization that has hundreds of locations?  Would we need 60% of all hourly employees at over 600 centers to approve or could just the majority of our one center join?

Said this on 5-17-2012 At 08:52 pm

I work as a ground handler for a regional carrier for United Airlines and we have a union but it lacks the power because we need all regional carriers to join the same Union.  My question is how do we get rid of a Union that does not work and work to form one that does. 

Linda Mahoney
Said this on 5-19-2012 At 05:27 pm

Our company is in despearte need of a union! This people are walking all over the workers. This is in the Health Care! Who do I contact?


Said this on 6-2-2012 At 11:03 pm

I work for a very large healthcare system and we just recently got a new CEO.  This would be a perfect time to form a union as he is making many changes - specifically with our health insurance, forcing employees to take a physical exam to test for blood pressure, body mass index, tobacco usage, cholesterol and glucose levels, etc.  If our numbers are not in the norm, we will be penalized with higher costs for our health insurance.  In addition, if we refuse to be tested, we will lose our health insurance all together. I think it would be very easy to get support to have a union in the hospital as many employees are becoming very disgruntled with his changes that will ultimately affect our pocket book.  Please send me information on how we can get started with a union at our hospital.  What union would be appropriate for hospital employees?  Any information would be appreciated.

Thank you!

Said this on 6-7-2012 At 03:31 pm

If it is a large company world wide like Lowes how do you organize a union, what employees would be included? Can you try to organize just local or district locations?

Said this on 6-15-2012 At 01:00 pm

You can organize a local store.  The store does run the risk of having management close the store down.  However, that is rare.  Walmart for example refuses to accept Unions here but has them all over the world. When they have unionized twice, they have shut the stores down twice. You should contact a Union in your area and speak with an organizer.

Said this on 6-19-2012 At 06:03 pm

try to form a union to help an protect my depleting city from unfair contractor wages put our people to wrok thats certified just as well ...with out the major outfitts takin over


Said this on 7-1-2012 At 07:00 am

I work for a larger veterinary corporation, but I would like to form a union for veterinary technicians. I don't even know how to get started. Can I start with just my hospital within this large corporation? Can I form a union for all veterinary technicians in my area?

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