Although every workplace is different and the needs of workers vary, there are some basic steps involved in winning a union voice on the job. Here's how it happens ...

To begin forming a union at your workplace there’s a simple starting point before going through the steps listed below: quietly talk to a few of your co-workers who you think may be interested in organizing. In this small group, privately discuss your workplace issues, what is involved in organizing a union, and making plans to contact USW. 

When you’re ready, contact us and a representative will get in touch with you to have a confidential conversation to answer your questions and help you develop an organizing plan.

Step 1: Build an Organizing Committee

Leaders are identified and an organizing committee representing all major departments, all shifts, and reflecting the racial, ethnic and gender diversity in the workforce is established.

Organizing committee training will begin immediately. You will learn about your rights as workers to organize a union and the protections from the law you have while doing so. Committee members must be prepared to work hard to educate themselves and their co-workers about the union and to warn and educate co-workers about what to expect from the company's possible anti-union campaign.

Also at this step basic information about the workplace must be gathered including:

  • workplace structure: departments, work areas, jobs, shifts
  • employee information: name, shift, job title, and department for each worker
  • employer information: other locations, parent company, product(s), customers, union history

Step 2: Adopt An Issues Program

The committee develops a list of bargaining priorities based on feedback from co-workers (the improvements you are are organizing to achieve) and a strategy for the union election campaign, which includes various organizing campaign activities in the workplace to highlight those prioroties and other issues.

Step 3: Sign-Up Majority on Union Cards

You and your co-workers sign confidential union cards authorizing the USW to represent you. The goal is to sign-up a sizable majority. This "card campaign" should proceed quickly once begun and is necessary to hold a union election.

Step 4: Win the Union Election

The signed cards are used (and required) to petition the state or federal labor board to hold an electionThe cards are kept confidential and returned to the union after the labor board’s review. 

It will take the labor board at least several weeks to determine who is eligible to vote and schedule the election. The organizing campaign must continue and intensify during the wait. 

If the union wins, the employer must recognize and bargain with the union. Winning a union election not only requires a strong, diverse organizing committee and a solid issues program, but there must also be a plan to combat the employer’s anti-union campaign.

Step 5: Negotiate a Contract

The organizing campaign does not let up after an election victory.

The real goal of the campaign, a union contract (the document the union and the employer negotiate and sign, covering everything from wages to how disputes will be handled), is still to be achieved.

Workers must be mobilized to support the union’s contract demands (decided by you and your co-workers) and pressure the employer to meet them.