Frequently Asked Questions About Forming a Union

What is a union?

A union is an organization that represents employees and deals with management on all issues concerning wages, benefits, and conditions of employment. This gives you, the employees, the power of many— not simply the power of one. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), affiliated with the AFL/CIO, is one of the largest private sector unions, with over 1.5 million members.

How do we form a union?

After the UFCW has a majority of signatures on authorization cards, there are three ways employees can become unionized.

  1. The UFCW will request a secret ballot election by filing a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB is an agency of the United States Federal Government. This is, by far, the most common way to become unionized.
  2. Your employer has the option of voluntarily recognizing the union. This is the least common method of organizing.
  3. Finally, if your employer commits a large number of unfair labor practices, which would make it impossible to have a fair election, the NLRB can issue a “bargaining order” requiring your employer to recognize the union. This is very unlikely.

What is an authorization card?

An authorization card is a document indicating you want to be represented by a union and authorizes UFCW to represent you. This card will also be used as proof to the NLRB that a majority of employees wish to be represented for the purpose of collective bargaining.

By signing an authorization card, am I joining the union?

No. You are simply showing UFCW and the NLRB that you are interested in being represented by a union.

How many signatures does it take to get an election?

The NLRB requires a minimum of 30% (of the workers) in order to file a request for an election. UFCW normally requires 65% before filing a petition since it takes a majority to win.

Who sees the cards and signatures?

Only UFCW and the NLRB will see the signatures.

How long does the process take?

The NLRB would like to schedule an election within 42 days after receiving the petition. The time it takes to file is up to you and your coworkers.

Who will conduct our election?

An agent from the National Labor Relations Board office in Georgia will conduct your secret ballot election. No one, including the board’s agent, will ever know how you voted—unless you tell them.

How many votes does it take to win?

A simple majority of the votes cast are required to secure a win—that is 50% plus one of the people who vote. For example, if 100 employees vote, 51 votes are needed to win. Anything less and you lose.

Who is eligible to vote?

Eligibility is determined during a hearing with the NLRB, your company, and the union.

Can my employer harass or fire me for supporting the union?

No! Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act protects your rights to form, join, or assist in forming a union at your workplace. The law protects your rights and ensures that you will not be treated disparately for your union activity. You are allowed to discuss the union while you are on break or off the clock and the person or persons you are discussing the union with are on break or off the clock as well.

What is collective bargaining?

Basically, collective bargaining is the process of negotiating a contract after you have voted to form a union. You, the employees, submit proposals based on what is important to you. You choose a negotiating committee of your peers and, with the union, bargain with management on all working conditions. This includes wages, job descriptions, insurance and retirement benefits, etc. When your negotiating committee of peers has reached a tentative agreement, then all bargaining unit employees will vote to accept or reject the contract.

Would my employer be bound by the contract?

Yes, once the contract has been voted on and accepted, this contract becomes a legal document and is protected by the federal government.

How would a union contract affect my job?

A contract between your employer and you, the employee, would spell out the terms of your employment, what is expected from you, and what you can expect from your employer. Right now, your employer is under NO obligation to you. Job descriptions, wages, benefits, etc. can change at any moment with or without notice. Georgia is an at-will employment state. Check your handbook! With a union contract, these benefits would be guaranteed in writing. This legally binding agreement provides for a fairer workplace and a more secure lifestyle for you and your family.

Will we have the same contract as other workers that UFCW represents?

No. Your contract will be designed by you and tailored to your (and your co-workers’) specific needs.

What about strikes?

If, during the collective bargaining process, UFCW and your employer do not reach an agreement, the employees have the option to accept the final offer, attempt to bargain more (usually with a federal mediator involved), or vote to strike. At least 66% (a two-thirds majority) of the employees voting must vote to strike before any further action is taken.

Okay, now what?

You’ve got the basics. Still want to learn more? Call us with your questions or for any additional information. Your calls are strictly confidential. Please call (800) 428-2972 or (678) 714-3500 and ask for the organizing director.

Authorization Card