How is a union formed?

Author: Jed L. Marcus, Bressler, Amery & Ross, P.C.

A union is formed when a union can demonstrate either to the employer or the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that it represents a majority of the employees in what is referred to as an appropriate bargaining unit. This can happen in two ways. First, the union can collect authorization cards which are signed by employees who want to join the union. An employer may, but is not required to, voluntarily recognize a union which has collected cards from a sufficient number of employees. If an employer chooses not to voluntarily recognize the labor organization, the union files a representation petition requesting an election with the regional office of the NLRB. In this situation, the union must present cards from at least 30 percent of those employees who have a community of interest in terms of job responsibilities, wage rates, benefits, and other common aspects of work. A secret ballot election supervised by the NLRB is scheduled and if over 50 percent of the employees voting choose to join a particular union, the organization is "certified" and the employer is required to bargain with the organization.