Under the National Labor Relations Act, which passed in 1935, “Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection…”
Among the reasons Congress articulated for that legislation is that “Experience has proved that protection by law of the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively safeguards commerce from injury, impairment, or interruption, and promotes the flow of commerce by removing certain recognized sources of industrial strife and unrest, by encouraging practices fundamental to the friendly adjustment of industrial disputes arising out of differences as to wages, hours, or other working conditions, and by restoring equality of bargaining power between employers and employees.” Today it remains the policy of the US Congress that our economy is best served by protecting workers’ rights to organize.
Experience has shown that workers who are represented by a Union have better wages and working conditions than those that don’t. Unions’ first and foremost role is to negotiate a legally binding contract with your employer that establishes your wages, hours and working conditions. Without a contract, your employer can make changes to your wages and working conditions at any time. Having a union represent you, provides a voice for you and your co-workers, and requires that your employer listen to workers’ concerns and negotiate with your representative. In the entertainment industry, with its freelance workforce, being in a union also means that you gain coverage by standard industry pension and health plans, which you often don’t receive without union representation. For information about the plan that covers our members, you can go to: http://www.mpiphp.org.
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Organizing often begins with a small group of workers who have discussed conditions at their workplace and deciding that they want to make improvements. Usually one of them will make a call to the union to learn more, and the process begins.
Every organizing campaign is different, and will depend on the number of employees and the number of employers involved. However, all successful organizing campaigns clear, frequent communication between union representatives and the employees involved, usually through the formation of an Organizing Committee. The Committee will assist the union representative to determine how many workers are involved, where they work, and what their concerns are. Once there is a decision to proceed with an organizing campaign, employees are asked to sign a confidential Authorization Card. The Card states that the employee designates the Union as the bargaining representative for that employee. Once a clear majority of employees have signed the card, the union will often first seek “voluntary recognition” from the employer involved. This voluntary process could involve having a neutral person agreed to by the parties review the Cards signed against a list of employees to verify that the union has support.
If the Employer doesn’t voluntarily recognize the union, the cards are filed with the National Labor Relations Board and a secret ballot election is scheduled. When the Union wins the election, the Employer is required to sit down with the union to bargain in good faith for a contact that covers the employees.
For a more in-detailed discussion of the organizing process, go to: http://www.iatse.net/us-organizing/how-organize