Choosing a Union: 4 Tips for Navigating Your Options
CEO & Founder
One of the most challenging steps in the unionization process is determining which union to join.
One problem: Many people don’t know the names of the unions that represent workers in their field.
But there are hundreds of unions representing workers in North America. It’s likely there is at least one, if not a few, that operates within your industry.
“There is a union for every type of career,” writes the AFL-CIO. “There are unions for NFL players, lobstermen and sitcom actors, and many other professions. No matter what profession you are in, you deserve to make ends meet, have a good life and plan for the future.”
Before you choose which union you want to work with, it’s a good idea to survey all of your options. Here’s our guide on how to do that.
Why Choosing the Right Union Matters
Unions negotiate favorable contracts and work to settle grievances fairly. They can also be instrumental in pushing your unionization effort across the finish line.
Union organizers and representatives have the experience and resources to:
- Lead you through each step in the unionization process.
- Build solidarity among workers for the new union.
- Help workers combat management union-busting campaigns on the way to securing an election victory and a first contract.
But to get that win, both sides have to work together. There must be a mutual trust that each side is doing their part to advance the effort. It’s especially important that workers believe the union is capable of representing their best interests, which is why you want to choose a union that knows your industry.
This is, however, easier said than done. Some unions represent a wide variety of industries, which can make finding the right one for your workplace more challenging than it seems on its face.
Four Tips for Sorting Through Your Options
Who a union represents isn’t always clear-cut. While some, like the Airline Pilots Association International (ALPA), are industry-specific, others represent a wide variety of industries. The United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE), for example, also represents teachers, clerical workers, hospital workers, and rail crew drivers.
That’s why it’s important to carefully research which unions are active in your specific industry. This may take some time, but it’s time well spent to ensure you find a union that aligns with your values and those of your coworkers. That kind of alignment is crucial in helping your workplace meet its goals as a bargaining unit.
Here are some tips to help you in your search.
Tip No. 1: Talk to Other Workers in Your Industry
One of the best resources for finding unions in your industry is other unionized workers. They will have insights to help guide your search and may be able to connect you with someone at the organization.
Don’t know anybody in a union? Start asking around. If there are local union halls in your community, stop by and ask them for referrals. Even if they don’t appear to be in your industry, those folks may be connected to others who are.
Tip No. 2: Try Google Maps in Your Area
Proximity can be useful, too. Usually, unions are situated around specific areas or facilities. Unions representing dock workers will have their offices near the port where those people work, for example.
Try searching “union” in Google Maps or some other mapping app. Doing this will often point you to great local resources.
Tip No. 3: Consult Online Resources
There are plenty of online resources you can use to find unions in your industry.
A simple Google search is a good place to start. Peruse websites and social media pages for the unions that pop up to learn more about them. Also check union databases like UnionBase, which you can search by keyword.
Tip No. 4: Contact Labor Organizations
While representatives at these organizations may not be able to identify all the unions in your industry, they can give you a starting point for your research. The NLRB and the AFL-CIO have regional offices you can call, too.
If there are several people working to find the right union, you can use a communication tool like UnionTrack® ENGAGE® to coordinate those efforts and share information in real time. This cooperation can help speed up the process of selecting a union to join.
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