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Your Rights/Forming a Union

Your Rights in the United States

You have a legal right to:

  • Join a union.
  • Attend a union meeting on your own time.
  • Talk to a union organizer.
  • Declare yourself a union supporter.
  • Assist in forming a union.

Employers are forbidden by law to engage in certain conduct. Your employer may NOT legally:

  • Threaten you with discharge or punishment if you engage in union activity.
  • Threaten to shut down business if workers form a union.
  • Prevent you from soliciting members during non-working hours.
  • Question you about union matters, union meetings, or union supporters.
  • Ask how you or other workers intend to vote in an election.
  • Ask whether you belong to a union or have signed up to join a union.
  • Transfer or assign you to a less desirable work assignment because of your union activity.
  • Threaten to terminate your benefits because you unionize.
  • Threaten a layoff or loss of jobs in retaliation for voting for a union. 


The Process:

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) provides a process to allow  your workplace to become a Union Workplace. This process culminates in an election that is legally binding upon your employer. Those eligible to vote in this election are known by the NLRB as Bargaining Unit Employees. They are your co-workers. It is important to know that "Supervisors and Management" are not allowed in the bargaining unit and therefore do not vote!
Below is a brief outline of the NLRB procedure. Click here to view the National Labor Relations Act in its entirety.
1.      One way to organize a company comes through the NLRB by what is known as a "Representative Election".  However, before the NLRB will schedule an election there must be a suitable showing of interest by your coworkers in forming a union. A minimum of 30% of the effected bargaining unit employees have to show interest in forming a union at your facility. This is most commonly achieved by the signing of Authorization Cards or simply  "A Cards". By virtue of your signature, the "A Card” signifies that you desire for the appropriate local union of the International Union of Operating Engineers to represent you for the purpose of collective bargaining.
2.      Along with the sufficient "Showing of Interest" an Election Petition must be filed with the NLRB. The NLRB will contact the employer and require them to provide a list of their employees. The NLRB will compare the names on the "A Cards” to the list provided by the employer to determine if there is sufficient interest, 30% or more, to warrant an election.
3.      Once it is determined that the bargaining unit is appropriate and that no supervisors or management are included, a date will be set by the NLRB for the election, usually 5 to 7 weeks out.
4.      On the day of the election the NLRB will set up a polling area, usually on the employer’s property, and supervise the election.  Employees vote by casting a paper ballot which they drop into a ballot box.  At the end of the voting period the polls are closed and the ballots are counted right on the spot. The union must win the majority of the votes to be declared the winner.
The above steps are the basics of the election process.  Find and contact the IUOE local union nearest you by clicking here. We can help you start on the road to a more rewarding work place and a better life for you and your family.

Your Rights in Canada

Joining a union is a basic democratic right that is protected by law throughout Canada. Under federal and provincial labour laws, workers have the right to join a union of their choice. It is your decision, and it is illegal for your employer to try to interfere with it.

Employers, like the union, are allowed to express their opinion about an organizing drive, but they are not allowed to use "coercion, intimidation, threats, promises, or undue influence."

Organizing a Union in Canada

The first step toward a better working life is the local's membership application. This card does not automatically make you a union member. By signing the application (and paying a small fee in some provinces), you indicate that you want the local to represent you in collective bargaining.

When enough people (the percentage varies according to provincial and/or federal law) where you work have signed up with the local, the local can apply for certification with the provincial or federal labour board.


Once the required number of employees has signed authorization cards, the local will apply to the Provincial or Federal Labour Board for certification. The board will notify your employer and set a date for a hearing. An official notice will be posted in your workplace informing all employees of the application.

Your shop or employer may be certified by one of two methods:  In most provinces, the Labour Board will examine the membership applications and determine whether a majority desire union representation (the percentage varies from province to province). If so, it will then certify the local as your union representative. In other provinces, the Labour Board, after examination of the membership applications, will conduct an election among the employees. Once a majority (50 percent plus 1) have voted for union representation, the Labour Board will certify the local as your union representative. In some cases, the Labour Board may convene a hearing.

In either case, once the local is certified, your employer is required by law to negotiate in good faith to the conclusion of a collective bargaining agreement. The labour laws in Canada differ from province to province. For specifics on how the process works in your province, contact the local union in your province directly.



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