Common Questions About Forming a Union

Why do I need a Union?

When workers come together and form a union, their employer is obligated under federal law to negotiate wages, hours and conditions of employment with representatives that the workers collectively designate.

The provisions of state law consider most workers "employees at will." This means that except under very special circumstances, an employer can discharge its workers with or without a reason and at any time. Employers can also set wage rates, benefit levels and work rules without any worker input or involvement. In other words, management can do or change just about anything it wants, whenever it chooses.

How do I form a Union where I work?

The first step is to reach out to a trained union organizer at UFCW Local 663. You will be contacted by a union organizer if you fill out this form.

We will be happy to talk with you about the specific problems that you are experiencing and what can be done to correct them. These conversations are strictly confidential and you are under no obligation of any kind to our union. A trained organizer will contact you after you fill out this form.

Every workplace is unique, and so are you and your coworkers. If a group of workers decide come together and become part of the union, we will develop a program that is especially tailored to fit the needs of those particular workers.

In order for workers to gain union representation, a majority must authorize the union to represent them. This is accomplished by signing cards or a petition that clearly states that purpose. The petition or authorization cards are kept confidential.

Is it easy to form a Union?

No. It takes the work of employees who are dedicated to helping their co-workers, as well as the active involvement of as many employees as possible. During the weeks before an election, it is very possible that the company will spend thousands of dollars to present an anti-union campaign compiled by paid consultants. Mandatory meetings with management may be held. You will be forced to watch films showing the horrors of organized labor strikes and violence. You will be told that unions are corrupt and that you don’t need a third party interfering with your relationship with management. They will beg for a second chance, but it is important that workers stay focused on their issues and why you decided to organize to begin with. The union isn’t a third party … You are the union!

Am I protected by law?

To put it simply, the United States Government itself guarantees you the right to help organize, join and support a union of your choice. This includes such activities as signing union cards, encouraging others to sign union cards and attending union meetings.

It also includes such activities as wearing union buttons, passing out union literature, and talking to other workers as long as it doesn’t interfere with work (production). It also means that employers are breaking the law if they question workers: (1) to try and find out how the workers feel; (2) to identify who has signed cards of who are union supporters; (3) to discover which ones are attending meetings, or if they engage in any other interference with your right to freely choose a union.

It also means employers cannot promise raises, promotions or other benefits in an attempt to influence workers. They cannot take away or threaten to take away any of your benefits because of union activity.

It also means you cannot be penalized in any way because of your union activity or support. You cannot have your overtime cut, be transferred to a less desirable job, be suspended or discharged. If an employer does any of these things because of your union activity or support, the law says you must be reinstated to your former job without loss of seniority, and the employer must pay you for all the lost wages plus interest.

We service and negotiate thousands of separate contracts for our members in various industries including retail food, drug and mercantile stores, food processing plants, plastics manufacturing and health care.

We have the strength, know-how and capabilities to help you gain a written contract, too.
It is your legal right. Yes! It's the law! You have the right to have a union.

How does a Union work?

A union is a democratic organization of a majority of workers in a facility. The basic idea of a union is that by joining with fellow employees to form a union, workers have a greater ability to improve conditions at the worksite. In other words, “In unity, there is strength.”

Who runs the Union? The company says the Union is just a bunch of outsiders - A third party

You run your own union. You elect your negotiating committee and prepare your own list of improvements for a union contract. You elect your own officers. The union is not an “outsider.” The union is you!

What is membership?

Union membership is established by the members. However, membership is not paid until the majority of workers vote to accept a contract they helped to negotiate. All initiation fees are waived for members of newly organized facilities.

Where does membership go?

Union Membership is used to run the union and keep it strong. The value of your union membership means stronger contract negotiations, grievance arbitrations and more organizing campaigns to protect your rights at work. Union membership costs are divided between the International Union and the workers’ own local union, which has its own treasury.

Will the Union make us go on strike?

No one can force you to go out on strike. In fact, strikes are actually very rare. The chances that you’ll go out on strike over any given contract are about 1%-2%. There can only be a strike at your place of employment if a majority of the workers vote to go on strike. The only reason that strikes come to mind is that the companies stress the fact that they could happen in order to scare employees and the media loves them, when in reality over 97% of all union contracts are negotiated without a strike.

Can I get fired for helping the union or for attending a Union meeting?

It is illegal for you to be fired, punished or harassed for attending union meetings or for supporting the union. The law protects your rights as workers to improve your working conditions.

Does the company have to negotiate if we vote to join a Union?

Yes! The law requires the company to bargain “in good faith” with the committee which the employees elect.

Will the operation close if we vote to join the UFCW?

It is illegal for an employer to threaten to close or close a facility to avoid a union. Companies use this common scare tactic to avoid successful organizing campaigns. The worst possible disservice that a union could do to its membership is to drive the company they work for out of business. Local 663 provides "Where We Work" guides to promote our Union facilities and the products we help produce.

My company says that Unions are corrupt.

Studies have been done that have demonstrated that less than 1% of local unions had corruption problems. Compare this with an investigation into corporate corruption by Fortune magazine that found that corporate corruption ran at 11%.

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