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Union 101 (old)

What is a union?

We believe that one good job should be enough.

Your work deserves respect. You deserve a living wage and benefits that guarantee the health and happiness of you and your family. 

We believe that companies and their management should treat you with respect and make your safety their priority. 

But employers don’t always share these beliefs — and when they don’t, it impacts everyone involved from the shop floor to customers. 

That’s where having a labor union helps. When you and your co-workers come together to form a union, you have the ability to hold your employer accountable and ensure they will respect your beliefs. 

After you and your employers sign the dotted line of a union contract, the things that matter most — like benefits packages, workplace safety, stable schedules, & fairness — all become things that the contract would legally require your company to provide you. 

A union is all of us, standing up for each other, making work better, and ensuring everybody gets what they need. 

(This is also why the UFCW also participates in events like food drives to Stamp Out Hunger, and toy drives to benefit local charities.) 

What does a union do?

When workers form a union, they have the ability to come together and get the benefits (like guaranteed raises, consistent schedules, and affordable health care) and respect they deserve! 

Have you ever felt like nothing will ever change at work because your issues and concerns aren’t being heard? When you unionize, your management and company have no choice but to listen. No, like legally they have to listen. A union levels the playing field and makes sure you and your coworkers have the ability to sit down with leadership and make the rules together.

Having a union also means having representation. After you and your coworkers vote to start a union, you’ll have what we call “shop stewards.” Shop Stewards are coworkers selected to support you when you have concerns at work or if you need help understanding parts of your contract. 

You’ll also have the support of union representatives at your local to help amplify your and your coworkers’ voices and address issues that you have with your company.

Why should I start a union?

Where do we even start?! The guaranteed benefits, the sense of community, the power to make a difference, the improved quality of life, the ability to turn your job into a career…we could go on and on! Did you know? Studies show that on average, union workers make 28% more money than non-union workers in the same industry. That’s the union difference! You can learn more about the union difference here.

Can anyone join a union? Who can unionize?

UFCW is a private sector union, meaning the majority of workers we represent aren’t government employees — but some are! So, if you are a government employee, we can also help direct you to the right place. Most private sector workers are able to unionize thanks to the National Labor Relations Act. Workers excluded from the NLRA are those who are:

  • Employed by federal, state, or local government.
  • Employed as agricultural laborers.
  • Employed in the domestic service of any person or family in a home.
  • Employed by a parent or spouse.
  • Employed as an independent contractor.
  • Employed as a supervisor (Companies risk violating the NLRA if they discriminate against supervisors in certain situations.)
  • Employed by an employer subject to the Railway Labor Act, such as railroads and airlines.
  • Employed by any other person who is not an employer as defined in the NLRA.

Even if you’re on this list, you may still be able to organize! Contact an organizer here to learn more.

As for who can join UFCW in particular? Our goal is to make work better for as many members as we can, and that’s why we represent people who work in industries ranging from grocery to meat and food packing to chemical work. 

We’re also proud of the diversity of our workforce in those industries: UFCW’s membership is majority women, with a plurality of BIPOC and young workers. Our members reflect the broad, diverse coalition of Americans who keep our country going.

Why did all of these people decide to become UFCW members? Some people joined because they wanted to secure better benefits or wages. Others wanted to make their workplace fairer and guarantee transparency, or to stand up to bad actors in their company.  Whatever their reason, they share a common goal:  working together to make work better. 

What is the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board)?

Great question! Let’s go straight to the source:

The National Labor Relations Board’s site states that “The NLRB is an independent federal agency enforcing the National Labor Relations Act, which guarantees the right of most private sector employees to organize, to engage in group efforts to improve their wages and working conditions, to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative, to engage in collective bargaining, and to refrain from any of these activities. It acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.”

In short, they are a government agency that helps unions and workers with the organizing, voting, and bargaining process and ensures workers’ rights are upheld and protected. 

What are the benefits of having a union?

Well, there’s a lot! The biggest benefit of having a union is that all of your benefits are now negotiable by you and your coworkers. If it relates to your working conditions and is a priority for you and your coworkers, you can negotiate for it!

Guaranteed raises, paid vacation and sick leave, healthcare plans, seniority rights, set pay scales, retirement plans and pensions, help with college tuition, exclusive discounts… We could go on! But don’t just take our word for it. Check out these stories from our members on how they’ve made their work better with a union.

What is a Union Local?

UFCW is an international organization that represents over 1.2 million workers in the USA, Puerto Rico, and Canada. This gives strength in numbers to workers all across North America, but most of the day-to-day experience you have in a union shop is with your union local

Think of the union as a tree and union locals as its branches. All of these parts make the whole union stronger and better equipped to take on workplace issues both big and small. The local is this tree’s farthest-reaching limbs. At a local office, you can find union representatives that help you get the most out of your union membership. 

Local reps are your go-to people who help make our beliefs a reality. If you’re a UFCW member, you can check out our Local Locator to find out which locals are in your area. If you’re looking to start a union in your area, click here to get in touch with an organizer!

What is a union job? How do I get a union job?

A union job is one where you have all your benefits guaranteed by a contract AND a team of coworkers who have your back! 

Interested in getting a job at a UFCW shop? You can visit www.ufcwjobs.com to see listings in your area.

What are union dues?

Union dues are regular payments made by members to keep their union running and able to provide the services and benefits they need. 

You do not pay any dues until after you vote yes on your first union contract. Ask yourself: Would you vote yes on a contract with worse pay and benefits than you have now? No! Of course not. 

Dues are how workers support their future selves and strengthen our union. When you pay a little into a much larger UFCW dues pot, you resource yourself with professional representatives, organizers, negotiators, and legal support. This includes the organizing staff who help us create unions, the negotiators who support you in collective bargaining, and the local union staff who provide day-to-day representation. 

A portion of dues goes into a strike fund so that if you and your coworkers decide you need to go on strike, you can supplement your lost income while you fight for the contract you need. 

There’s a lot of misinformation about dues out there. You can get the facts on dues and other anti-union talking points by checking out our union myth-busting series here!

Organize and unionize your workplace

Are you and your coworkers ready to negotiate together for bigger paychecks, stronger benefits and better lives? If you are, the steps to joining the UFCW are simple.

How to Start a Union
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