Union How-To
July 12, 2009 9:02 PM   Subscribe

When is the right time to get Labor Union representation?

Has anyone gone through the process of unionizing their workplace? What factors motivated you? What was the main indicator that your issues could only be resolved through a union contract?
Once you decide on representation, how do you find the union that represents your field of work? I've found unions that represent transportation workers, shipping, airplane, auto manufacturing, and all manner of transportation related labor, but none that represent automotive repair technicians or mechanics.
posted by Jon-o to Work & Money (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
As far as finding the appropriate union, your local labor council may have ideas on who to approach.

Good luck. Because of my union contract, I make double what freelancers in my field make, and actually have benefits.
posted by mollymayhem at 9:14 PM on July 12, 2009


According to my googling, that's the largest auto mechanic's union (they rep other people too.) My suggestion would be to give someone at that organization a call once you decide. They have a form on there for getting in contact with an organizer, but, depending on the anti-union animosity your workplace might have, I'd feel more comfortable not putting something in writing.

I've worked briefly for a union in the legal dept, but I've never been involved in organizing, so there are probably others who can better answer the rest of your questions.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 9:20 PM on July 12, 2009

I am a Union organizer, feel free contact me. There are a number of factors to consider, for example
1)size of the company you work for, mom and pop, regional, or multinational?
2)level of commitment you and your co-workers have, there is no quick solution, and most employers don't give anything up without a fight.
3)What are the issues, are they specific to one person or a small group, or is everyone affected?

As to which Union, power comes from density within an industry or region. Are there other Unions around you who are active? If you are in Charleston, the Longshoreman have a proud history of fighting for justice. Someone would probably be happy to talk to you.

For your own protection, don't talk to folks while at work,and speak only to those people who you can trust to stay quiet, until you have a plan to win.
posted by Unioncat at 9:55 PM on July 12, 2009 [5 favorites]

If you are in SC, as your profile says, you are in a very anti-union state. Wuzzandfuzz is right so suggest IAMAW (the Machinists' Union).
You should contact a local rep (or call the international) and arrange to talk to someone off site and on your own time if you can.
posted by cushie at 10:30 PM on July 12, 2009

I would strongly consider the "price" versus the result. Price here being the hassle involved. Might be better off finding a better place to work.
posted by gjc at 6:47 AM on July 13, 2009

I would strongly consider the "price" versus the result. Price here being the hassle involved. Might be better off finding a better place to work.

I think what you're talking about is risk vs. reward.

I'm also guessing you have never gone to court to fight a wrongful ticket, defended someone weaker against the threat of violence, or stood up for someone representing a group that you didn't identify with (different race, nationality, sexual preference, disability, etc). The risk that comes with standing up for those people does not equate with the rewards you will reap as someone who does not belong to those groups.

Jon-O, I think what you're doing is great. Worst case scenario, you will make it MUCH harder for employers like your employer to operate, while waking up workers to the fact that they ALWAYS have an option in the United States. Best case scenario, you will be getting a fair wage and RESPECT.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:38 AM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

hal_c_on, this really isn't about what windmills I choose to tilt at. And I'm really not talking about risk- the laws make it pretty clear that if you want to unionize, you can. No risk there. What I am talking about, thank you very much, is indeed what I said. Unionizing has costs, and people ought to consider whether it is worth it.

Unionizing is adding a layer of complexity. At the smallest level, you still have to fight with your employer for what you want. At a higher level, you pay someone else to do it. At the highest level, you end up being a serf to the union. You have to work for what they say, you *can't* work if they say you can't, you can't get a promotion if there is some other loser with more seniority who wants the job, and you are just as voiceless. If not more so- a large union has to look after all its workers, and will not sacrifice that position because you want a raise or have a gripe that's not covered by The Contract.

Unions are great for some things, not so great for others. Implying that unionization a panacea is ignorant at best, irresponsible at worst.
posted by gjc at 7:06 AM on July 14, 2009

So, are things like healthcare benefits available through the Union (a larger pool of individuals) or does the Union help you negotiate better benefits from your employer?
posted by Jon-o at 3:58 AM on July 15, 2009

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