Union How to

Employees have said to me, “If we were to do something, I don’t even know how we would do it. How do you even form a union?”

I have never started a union, but it seems pretty straightforward to me. The National Labor Relations Board has the facts. The NLRB is the federal organization that governs unions, and it is this organization that will conduct any union ballot at SDF8, should the associates decide to raise such an initiative.

The NLRB “Employee Rights” are posted in each breakroom. This poster has definitive information about what employees and the company can and can’t do regarding labor organization. Any employee can read this poster and have a good understanding of federal faw regarding unions. It states, for instance, “Under the NLRA, you have the right to: Bargain collectively through representatives of employees’ own choosing for a contract with your employer setting your wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions.”

It also states, among other things, “Under the NLRA, it is illegal for your employer to: Question you about your union support or activities in a manner that discourages you from engaging in that activity.”

It also states plainly, “Illegal conduct will not be permitted. If you believe your rights or the rights of others have been violated, you should contact the NLRB promptly to protect your rights . . . .”

There are several wikiHow pages with what appear to be no-nonsense descriptions of how to form a union. On the surface, it seems about as easy as a group getting together and saying, “Lets vote ourselves a union.” When the company says, “Oh, you shouldn’t do that,” you say, “No thanks, we’re going to do it anyway.” Vote yes, and then enter into negotiations for wages, benefits, hours, and working conditions.

There are many steps, but I see three to focus on, fail on any one of the three, and risk failure on all: 1) Sign cards of intent. The law requires, in essence, a two-step vote. First, the employee must sign a card of intent, then the actual vote to ratify the union comes after. Many successful card initiations have gone on to fail at the final vote. 2) Vote yes. All the preparation, all the organization, all the excitement (or apprehension) means nothing without a successful vote. I would guess that most promising union beginnings fail at the vote for two reasons–inadequate organization and pressure from the company. 3) Negotiate a contract. A successful union vote will not, in itself, satisfy the needs of the employees. An equitable contract will need to be negotiated. The employees will want to elect or hire savvy representatives for this process. I could see this third step possibly being the trickiest of all the steps.

Talk openly about what you think the goals of labor should be in terms of wages, job security, benefits, safety. Wear union themed clothing if you wish.

Always consider the source (as well as hidden sources) of the information you are receiving, and ignore company fear mongering or fake smiles.

Ignore company rhetoric as if it were background noise; it only has meaning if you give it meaning. Do not be fearful. Do not be scared to lose your job.

Do not fear. The law is on your side. The NLRB has your back. It is the company that is afraid of you. You need not be afraid of it.

Stand together. Amazon is a corporation with tremendous resources. Only as a group can you negotiate with it. It will do everything it can, “mobilize its entire arsenal,” to convince you that a union is not in your interest. All you have to do is decide that it is.

Stand up for your co-workers and their families. Show them love. Do not let them fall.

Fear of losing your job is a weakness on which anti-labor interests will be sure to capitalize. Consider what is at stake, and be ready to forfeit your job.

I have been focusing on company fear-mongering, but also consider that Amazon might take an opposite course, attempting to demonstrate how open and friendly the company is. It might even offer a small pay raise or begin allowing mp3 players to appease employees. Follow your own beliefs in this regard.

I want, here, to make a small preemptive argument regarding union dues:

A common concern of non-union employees is that after a union is ratified, they will be forced to pay union dues. Union dues are small payments that are deducted from union members’ paychecks and deposited in the union treasury. Union dues are necessary and insignificant when compared to substantial wage increases and protections a union will offer SDF8 hourly employees. To me, these union dues are simply a non-issue and something I gladly and voluntarily want to pay.

Union dues are a favorite argument of anti-union consultants–firms companies pay massive fees to conduct anti-union offensives. This is a suspicious argument. Consider the source. A company that desperately wants to pay you less money will tell you: A union only wants your money.

Union dues go to administrative costs and strike pay among other various organizational and operational costs. Dues are a good investment directly benefiting the workers who pay them. I want to be part of a strong union, and I want it well funded.

Despite federal employee protections, I believe Amazon will stop at nothing to prevent a union, maybe even go as far as closing the facility under specious pretext. So, expect that to lose your job is a real possibility, and move forward without fear, following whatever convictions you have. This lack of fear will give you tremendous negotiating power.