Why do we need a union?
We need a union because we want just cause employment, a seat at the table, and more transparency.
Unions represent employees at a company or organization in negotiations with management about wages, benefits, and workplace policies. Without representation from a union, management dictates wages, benefits, and policies with no formal input from employees. Once employees form a union, management is legally bound to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that will govern terms of employment at the organization.
Once our union is legally recognized, we will become just cause employees. Right now, we are employed at will, which means that management can fire us for any non-discriminatory purpose and without due process. Once we become just cause employees, RAICES must document and explain any employment termination through a predetermined process and employees will have the benefit of a union attorney during employment disputes.
If you’re curious about what a nonprofit union can achieve through collective bargaining, check out the contract that Lambda Legal employees negotiated with the help of the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, the same union we’re working with.
How do we form the union?
First we will ask for voluntary recognition. For this, we will need a strong majority (we’re aiming for at least 65%) of eligible employees (not managers) to sign cards stating that they want to form a union. The union will send cards to all employees who are interested and the employees will send them back to the union. The organization will never see this card and will never know whether you voted to form a union. This step is dependent on enough employees having an active interest. If you want to form a union, please fill out this form or directly notify the organizing committee via social media DM or email at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can send you a card.
RAICES management can agree to let a neutral third party tally the signed union cards and report whether a strong majority of eligible employees have signed cards.
At the same time, an attorney from the union will notify RAICES management that we are filing for union recognition through the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”). If RAICES chooses not to voluntarily recognize the union, we will have a formal union election through the NLRB. Again, employees will be mailed confidential ballots that they mark and return to the NLRB. If over half the employees vote “yes,” RAICES must recognize the union and enter into collective bargaining.
Voting “yes” does not obligate you to pay union dues.
What’s the deal with dues?
Dues pay union organizers for their work and pay the attorneys that back you up in case of an employment dispute with management. They are essential to keeping the union and its resources strong.
Washington-Baltimore News Guild dues are 1.44% of your base salary. For example, if you make $50,000, your dues would be $60 per month. The Guild does not collect dues until the first collective bargaining agreement is finalized.
That being said, dues are not mandatory. You can enjoy all the benefits and protections of the union without paying dues. However, you should pay dues to keep the union strong and because only union members are eligible to vote on officers (the employees that represent everyone in collective bargaining), vote on contract settlement, and help make policy for a RAICES unit of the local.
I want to vote to form a union but I’m afraid of losing my job…
You have the right to form, join, or assist a union! The National Labor Relations Act protects employees who are forming a union. This means that your employer cannot legally fire you for union organizing outside of work hours. Know your rights!
You have the right to organize a union to negotiate collectively with your employer over your terms and conditions of employment. This includes your right to distribute union literature, wear union buttons, t-shirts, or other insignia (except in unusual “special circumstances”), solicit coworkers to sign union authorization cards, and discuss the union with coworkers.
Supervisors and managers cannot spy on you (or make it appear that they are doing so), coercively question you, threaten you, or bribe you regarding your union activity or the union activities of your co-workers. You cannot be fired, disciplined, demoted, or penalized in any way for engaging in these activities.
But be smart about it! Working time is for work. Don’t talk about the union during work hours and do not use work-issued devices like laptops or cell phones to conduct or discuss union activities.
Who decides what we should ask for during collective bargaining?
You do! Once our union is recognized, the employee organizing committee will send surveys to all employees to gather opinions on what we should prioritize during collective bargaining. Then, union officers (your fellow employees) from every department will bring the voice of all employees to the bargaining table.
A union is only as strong as its employees. If you’re afraid that the union might not reflect your interests or fight for what you think is most important, then get involved!
Why is management against the union?
In non-union facilities all decisions about wages, benefits and working conditions are made by the employer. No employer wants to lose this power, so they always fight against workers organizing a union.
Can we lose benefits if we vote for the union?
Once there is a union, the company cannot change any existing benefits unless the membership votes to accept the decreases. Remember, without a union contract the company can change anything they want whenever they want.
Will the organization close if we get a union?
Organizations do not go bankrupt because workers have a union or get treated fairly. They close because of poor management. The threat of closing is a scare tactic that employers use to keep people from gaining a voice on the job.
What if my employer can’t afford a union contract?
No one wants the organization to close, especially the workers. If the organization says they cannot afford the pay and benefits that the workers want, they must prove it by showing financial records. Then we can make decisions together based on real information, not just organization propaganda.
What about union corruption and dishonesty?
Most unions are decent, honest organizations dedicated to improving the lives of working people. Unlike a corporation, a union is governed by a constitution which calls for regular elections and participation by members. If there is corruption or a dishonest leader, workers can vote them out.
What can the union guarantee?
The only guarantee is that when workers stick together you will have more bargaining power than you do individually, so you have a better chance of making improvements. Another guarantee is that if you and your co-workers do not join together to form a union, you will never have the ability to make the changes you would like to see.
Does the company have to negotiate if the workers win the union?
Yes, the law requires the company to bargain in good faith. But the law does not compel the employer to agree to any demands. Workers make gains through their own unity and strength.
Will we have to go on strike to get a contract?
Over 98% of the contracts are settled without a strike. A strike is a very serious move for workers. Workers always vote on whether they will strike or not. Members must decide for themselves whether a strike or some other method is the best way to win the contract they want. Management would consider carefully any serious threat of a strike as they are negotiating as well. Usually workers only vote for a strike when they know they can win. If the union is strong a strike might not be necessary. Keeping an active, involved membership all the time will make the union strong for contract negotiations.
Don’t unions just protect bad workers?
All workers should be protected from arbitrary or discriminatory action from their boss. The union makes sure that every worker gets a fair hearing. It is Management’s responsibility to prove that a worker has not been performing their job. There is nothing a union can do to protect the jobs of workers who are willfully negligent.
Are there many members? I’ll join when there is a majority.
If we all had that attitude then we’d never reach a majority. We need to build our organization one by one in order to reach a majority.
My supervisor treats me well and I’m doing fine in my position.
If your supervisor treats you well, that’s great, but what happens if your supervisor is laid off or you are transferred to a different supervisor? Things can change at any time, and your co-workers may not be as fortunate as you are right now.
What does Teen Vogue think about unions?
Teen Vogue loves unions.