Matthew Heckert, Local 520 Organizer
What is Organizing?
The common term for a group of workers looking to join a
union is “Organizing.” Workers organize for various reasons,
be it to improve their working conditions, increase their
pay or benefits, and/or to create a better working
environment. We encourage you to read more about us to see
if joining our union is right for you and/or your coworkers.
The American Promise is that if we go to school, work hard,
and become a productive and faithful employee, we can then
expect to support a family, raise and educate our children,
enjoy a healthy and fulfilling life and retire with dignity.
We weren’t supposed to have to win the lottery, or be a
corporate executive to enjoy the American dream.
That was the vision of middle class Americans, who once
modeled the image of what it was to be an American. The
middle class is disappearing in direct proportion to the
demise of the American union movement. After World War II,
nearly 30 percent of our work force belonged to unions.
Today, barely half that are organized. Today, a few own the
world’s resources while most live in poverty.
Wages of $10-$12 per hour are common. For most of these workers
there is no health insurance or retirement plans. The
result? Taxpayers across the United States are making up for
what employers should be paying with public assistance
programs. That’s corporate welfare.
Why are wages so low? Because that’s the easiest way to
increase profitability. The result? Today, the wealthiest
one percent own as much of our nation as ninety percent of
the rest of us. Corporate CEO’s can earn 500 times the wages
paid their workers.
The freedom to form unions is a basic human right. In 1935,
the US Government enacted the National Labor Relations Act
that said, “Employees shall have the right to form…labor
organizations…to bargain collectively…(and employers may
not) interfere with…the exercise of…this right.” In 1948,
the US joined four-fifths of United Nations member states to
ratify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which
included the right of all people to come together in unions.
Workers form unions because there is power in numbers. Where
unions are strong, employers must bargain collectively to
set the terms and conditions of employment. The demand for
profits must then be compromised with fairness toward
How Employers Prevent Unions?
When American workers seek to exercise the right to form a
union, they nearly always run into a buzz saw of employer
threats, intimidation and coercion such as:
• Captive audience meetings
• One-on-one meetings with
• Threats to close or move the
workplace if workers vote to unionize
• Hiring professional
consultants (union-busters) to coordinate anti-worker
• Firing workers for union
According to Human Rights Watch, the treatment of workers by
employers and the failure of the US government to prevent it
constitute a serious violation of human rights. Their report
says, “Many workers…are spied on, harassed, pressured,
threatened, suspended, fired, deported or otherwise
victimized in reprisal for their exercise of the right to
choose a union.”
The consequences have been devastation for all of American
society. When collective bargaining is suppressed, wages
lag, inequality and poverty grow, race and gender pay gaps
widen, society’s safety net is strained and civic and
political participation are undermined.
What Have Unions Done for Us?
5-day work week
Family and medical leave
Fair treatment for women, people of all ethnic backgrounds,
and those with disabilities
Union members earn 28 percent more than nonunion workers.
But stronger unions raise living standards and improve the
quality of life for everyone. In the 10 states in which
unions are the strongest, there is less poverty, higher
household income, more education spending, and better public
policy than in the 10 states where unions are weakest.
Unions Encourage Democracy:
Unions encourage voting and other forms of political
participation by members and other social groups with common
interests. Political Scientist Benjamin Radcliff has
estimated that for every 1 percent decline in union
membership there is a 0.4 percent decline in voter
35 Things Your Employer Cannot Do:
|1. Attend any
union meeting, park across the street from the hall
or engage in any undercover activity which would
indicate that the employees are being kept under
surveillance to determine who is and who is not
participating in the union program.
|2. Tell employees that the company
will fire or punish them if they engage in union
|3. Lay off,
discharge, discipline any employee for union
|4. Grant employees wage increases,
special concessions or benefits in order to keep the
employee-union representatives from soliciting
employees’ memberships on or off the company
property during non-working hours.
|6. Ask employees about union
matters, meetings, etc. (Some employees may, of
their own accord, walk up and tell of such matters.
It is not an unfair labor practice to listen, but to
ask questions to obtain additional information is
|7. Ask employees
what they think about the union or a union
representative once the employee refuses to discuss
|8. Ask employees how they intend to
employees with reprisal for participating in union
activities. For example, threaten to move the plant
or close the business, curtail operations or reduce
|10. Promise benefits to employees if
they reject the union.
|11. Give financial
support or other assistance to a union.
|12. Announce that the
company will not deal with the union.
Threaten to close, in fact close, or move plant in
order to avoid dealing with a union.
|14. Ask employees whether or not
they belong to a union, or have signed up for union
|15. Ask an
employee, during the hiring interview, about his
affiliation with a labor organization or how he
feels about unions.
|16. Make anti-union statements or
act in a way that might show preference for a
distinctions between union and non-union employees
when signing overtime work or desirable work.
|18. Purposely team up non-union men
and keep them apart from those supporting the union.
workers on the basis of union affiliations or
|20. Choose employees to
be laid off in order to weaken the union’s strength
or discourage membership in the union.
against union people when disciplining employees.
|22. By nature of work assignments,
create conditions intended to get rid of an employee
because of his union activity.
|23. Fail to grant
a scheduled benefit or wage increase because of
|24. Deviate from company policy for
the purpose of getting rid of a union supporter.
|25. Take action
that adversely affects an employee’s job or pay rate
because of union activity.
|26. Threaten workers or coerce them
in an attempt to influence their vote.
Threaten a union member through a third party.
|28. Promise employees a
reward or future benefit if they decide “no union”.
Tell employees overtime work (and premium pay) will
be discontinued if the plant is unionized.
|30. Say unionization
will force the company to lay off employees.
Say unionization will do away with vacations or
other benefits and privileges presently in effect.
|32. Promise employees
promotions, raises or other benefits if they get out
of the union or refrain from joining the union.
|33. Start a
petition or circular against the union or encourage
or take part in its circulation if started by
|34. Urge employees to
try to induce others to oppose the union or keep out
|35. Visit the homes of employees to urge them to
reject the union.