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How to Form a Labor Union

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What Is a Labor Union?

A labor union is a collection of employees who organize to equalize the bargaining power between management and the employees. A labor union gives employees a collective voice and employers are more likely to listen to their grievances.    

How Is a Labor Union Formed?

A labor union can be formed in two ways:  employees can either choose an existing union through an election or create their own. Creating a new union is very difficult; most of the time employees unionize by holding labor union elections. Either way, a union must be certified by the NLRB (a federal agency). The process is as follows:

  • Authorization Cards - An employee must first sign an authorization card to show his willingness to form a union. A union election requires at least 30% of the employees to sign the cards. Creating a new union requires a majority of the workers to sign the cards.  Otherwise, a union cannot be formed. 
  • Appropriate Bargaining Unit (ABU) - If there are enough signed authorization cards, they are sent to the NLRB for approval of a union election. The NLRB will only grant a union election if the employees are an ABU. This means that the employees have similar demands, hold similar positions, are non-management employees, and work in a close geographical area. 
  • Certification - The NLRB will certify and preside over a union election if the above requirements are met. 

How Are Labor Union Elections Held?

The NLRB presides over a union election. NLRB employees make sure the election is fair and all voters are eligible. The NLRB then counts the votes and certifies the winning union as the bargaining representative of the voting employees.   

How Can a Lawyer Help Me? 

Forming a union can be very difficult. Consulting a labor law attorney can help you understand what needs to be done to form a union. A labor lawyer also can help you negotiate with your employer.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 06-01-2015 12:50 PM PDT

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