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What is a Union?

A union is a group of workers who form an organization to gain:

  • Respect on the job
  • Better wages and benefits
  • More flexibility for work and family needs
  • A counter-balance to the unchecked power of employers
  • A voice in improving the quality of their products and services

How do people form a union?

When workers decide they want to come together to improve their jobs, they work with a union to help them form their own local chapter. Once a majority of workers shows they want a union, sometimes employers honor the workers' choice. Often, the workers must ask the government to hold an election. If the workers win their union, they negotiate a contract with the employer that spells out each party's rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

Does the Law protect workers joining unions?

It's supposed to - but often it doesn't. Under the law, employers are not allowed to discriminate against or fire workers for choosing to join a union. For example, it's illegal for employers to threaten to shut down their businesses or to fire employees or take away benefits if workers form a union. However, employers routinely violate these laws, and penalties are weak or nonexistent.

How do unions help working families?

Through unions, workers win better wages, benefits and a voice on the job and good union jobs mean stronger communities. Union workers earn 25 percent more than non-union workers and are more likely to receive health care and pension benefits than those without a union.

What have unions accomplished for all workers?

Unions have made life better for all working Americans by helping to pass laws ending child labor, establishing the eight-hour work day, protecting workers' safety and health and helping create Social Security, unemployment insurance and the minimum wage. Unions continue to fight today to improve life for all working families in America.