What is a union?

Unions are working people standing together. When working people stand together, we can bargain with our bosses for better pay, safer working conditions and decent benefits. When workers stand together, we have power. And that power makes the American Dream more possible for everyone.

what_is_a_union_1.pdfWhy join a union?

Have you ever had an idea on how to make your job and where you work better in some way? Throughout history, working people have stood together to have a voice where they work and a seat at the table to negotiate good wages and decent benefits for their families. This simple concept can apply to everyone, regardless of where you work or who your boss is.

People who work for a living know about the inequality of power between employers and employees. Workers want to form unions counter-balance the unchecked power of employers. With a union, working people win basic rights, like a say in their jobs, safety and security. Unions help remedy discrimination because union contracts ensure that all workers are treated fairly and equally. When there’s a problem on the job, workers and management can work together as equals to solve it.

How do people form a union?

When workers decide they want to come together to improve their jobs, they work with a union to help them form their own local chapter. Once a majority of workers shows they want a union, sometimes employers honor the workers’ choice. Often, the workers must ask the government to hold an election. If the workers win their union, they negotiate a contract with the employer that spells out each party’s rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

Does the law protect workers joining unions?

It’s supposed to—but too often it doesn’t. Under the law, employers are not allowed to discriminate against or fire workers for choosing to join a union. For example, it’s illegal for employers to threaten to shut down their businesses or to fire employees or take away benefits if workers form a union. However, employers routinely violate these laws, and the penalties are weak or nonexistent.

What kinds of workers are forming unions today?

A wider range of people than ever before, including many women and immigrants, are joining unions—digital news staff, doctors and nurses, poultry workers and graduate employees, home health care aides, auto parts workers and engineers, to name a few.

How do unions help working families today?

Through unions, workers win better wages, benefits and a voice on the job—and good union jobs mean stronger communities. Union workers earn 25 percent more than nonunion workers and are more likely to receive health care and pension benefits than those without a union. Unions continue to lead the fight today for better lives for working people, such as through expanded family and medical leave, improved safety and health protections, and fighting for fair-trade agreements that lift the standard of living for workers all over the world.

What have unions accomplished for all workers?

Unions are continuing the fight today to improve life for all working families in America.

Check out what working people standing together have won for our country:

Family & Medical Leave ACT

Pregnancy & Parental LEAVE

All Breaks at Work (including Lunch Breaks)

Weekends & Paid Vacation

Sick Leave

Minimum Wage

Social Security

Overtime & Holiday Pay

Child Labor Laws

Privacy Rights

Civil Rights

Homeowners’ Bill of Rights

40 Hour Work Week

Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)

8-Hour Work Day

Military Leave

Protections for immigrant workers

Workers’ Compensation

Unemployment Insurance

Wrongful Termination Laws

Sexual Harassment Laws

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

Employer Dental, Life, & Vision Insurance

Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 AND MORE!

What challenges do workers face today when they want to form unions?

Today, thousands of workers want to join unions. The wisest employers understand that when workers form unions, their companies also benefit. But most employers fight workers’ efforts to come together by intimidating, harassing and threatening them. In response, workers are reaching out to their communities for help exercising their freedom to improve their lives.