Organizing a Union: Some Steps

STEP ONE: Know Your Rights

1) The right to join a union is a human right. “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States to…encourag[e] the practice and procedure of collective bargaining and [to] protect… the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization and designation of representatives of their own choosing, for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid or protection.” [from Declaration of Human Rights]

2) The laws: National Labor Relations Act gives private sector workers the “right to engage in concerted activity to improve their wages and working conditions, including the right to petition, leaflet, organize a union, picket, and strike.” The Massachusetts Public Employee Collective Bargaining Law provides the same rights to public sector

STEP TWO: Talk to Your Co-Workers

On your break and lunch time, talk with other workers to see if they are concerned about issues in the workplace and if they might be interested in learning more about what a union can do. A union organizing drive will only succeed if there is support from the workers. Never act alone.

STEP THREE: Find Out Which Union is Right for You

To form a union on the job, you need the backup and hands-on help from the union you are seeking to join. If you don’t already know which union is most able to help you, find out more about the unions affiliated with the Massachusetts AFL-CIO at 781/324-8230. Many other unions are part of the Change to Win Federation. These websites enable you to contact the right person there directly to help you form a union.

STEP FOUR: Contact a union to work with you

Most unions will ask workers to form an organizing committee of interested workers to work with a union organizer to ask workers to sign union membership cards indicating that they want to join the union. Signatures of at least 50% of workers needed.


The Union files for an election. Workers vote in an election whether to join.


If a majority votes yes, negotiate a contract.

courtesy of the University of Massachusetts Labor Extension Program, adapted from Mass AFL-CIO website

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