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Union formation

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  • Union formation

    I have a question related to forming a union in my department. I work in the IT department for a major pharmaceutical corporation, a new director has been oppointed to our department about a year ago, since then our department has been going down hill at an alarming rate, moral has tanked. I would like to form a union so our voice can be heard, I know that I, myself, hold the hearts and minds of my co-workers, should I discuss forming a union it WILL happen. I've read that it can take up to 5-8 weeks for this to happen after a seceret ballot. Management will inevitably become aware of a possible union before the 5-8 weeks is up, and being as how I am VERY outspoken in my position for workers rights they will know that a union is my doing. I fear that before 5-8 weeks is up they will take drastic measures and fire me immediately. Before 5-8 weeks is up I feel they will likely find a reason to fire me believing that will put an end to any union possibility, and it likely will, is this legal and what recourse would I have?
    Junior Member
    Last edited by Bigrydes; 08-18-2005, 05:26 PM.

  • #2
    It is absolutely NOT legal to fire you for forming a union. If that should happen, I'm not sure if it's the DOL or the NLRB you need to report to, but either one should be able to tell you.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


    • #3
      CBG is right, but I think CBG is also not paying attention to the Wal Mart issue.

      I think if you contact a union rep and discuss this with them, and possibly the state DOL, you guys can figure a way around this roadblock.

      The point is where there is a will there is a way.
      I don't believe what I write, and neither should you. Information furnished to you is for debate purposes only, be sure to verify with your own research.
      Keep in mind that the information provided may not be worth any more than either a politician's promise or what you paid for it (nothing).
      I also may not have been either sane or sober when I wrote it down.
      Don't worry, be happy. is a good resource!


      • #4
        great, but caution

        Employees can form a union as in the sense an independent union. Or they can from a union in the sense of voting to join an existing union (e.g.: Local 123, UAW, Local 456, IBEW).

        Almost any two employees can form their own, truly independent union. Although, there are special reporting requirements with the fed DOL and perhaps IRS (sec. 501(c)(5) organization - 26 usc 501(c)(5)).

        but, there are certain problems with all of this and you may need guidance. therefore, contacting an organizer of an existing union may be better. You would be one of the "shops" within a local. Except for certain major manufacturing plants, a local union is usually comprised of ten or fifteen or twenty shops.

        You have two problems I immediately see: First, can you form a union at all? certain people cannot form unions, they are exempt. supervisors. doctors. Generally, it is professional employees with specialized knowledge, or supervisors/managers cannot form a union at all. guards can form a union, but not in the same union which has non-guards. this is because in case of a strike, mgmt. wants guards to be able to wield their power and not be conflicted by allegiances. white collar unions are allowed, but more rare. and the status of computer programmers has been challenged. I don't know the outcome as I've never had to research it. Second, I don't know which Union you'd turn to in order to organize with. That is, I'm not sure if any union has a "speciality" in programmers/IT pros. My guess is it would be the CWA (communication workers of america) or the IBEW (international brotherhood of electrical workers), or etc. However, the ibew has plain old manufacturing ppl and the cwa has broom pushers. Any union can have any worker. Thus, there are teamsters who represent telephone operators and laborers who represent truck drivers. go figure. I'm just trying to point out you'll likely want a union who knows a little something about your work, and it might not be who you'd exepct.

        as far as the election goes: the NLRB has a policy that elections are to be conducted 42 days after a petition is filed. a petition is a simple one page piece of paper stating who the proposed union is, who the employer is, how many ppl., exactly what positions are in and what are out. the petition (in your case an RC petition) must be supported by a showing of interest of 30% or more of the proposed unit. a showing of interest is generally accomplished by submitting authorization cards from supporting employees. these go to the nlrb and NEVER to the company. the nlrb is good about protecting the identities as contained on the authorization cards. anyway, these cards would state an employee's name, address, who they work for, wage rate, signature and date and a statement that the wish to be represented by X union. If you contact a union, they will have these at the ready.

        anyway, you submit Petition ( - then forms somewhere in .pdf format) with authorization cards and then the NLRB contacts the Company to inform them that a peition has been filed. The nlrb sends the employer a copy of the petition, but not the cards (thus, better for the union rep to complete and sign than you, for that immediately identifies you). they must do this in order to determine if your showing of interest is accurate (no fake names, no fired employees, etc. - the company sends an eligibility list to nlrb, not the nlrb sending names to company) and to allow the employer opp'ty to raise any objections (such as you're not organizable). if the objections are valid (or even not valid) you go to hearing before the nlrb (usually within a week or so) to iron that out. Presuming you prevail at hearing, you proceed to set the date, time, place etc. of election. If there are not objections, you proceed to set date, time place etc. of election. the NLRB likes and almost demands that elections occur 42 days after the filing of election.

        once the election is set, you wait and then vote. the nlrb comes to you and sets up a little voting booth in a neutral location. it cannot be too near the supervisors areas, and usually is in an unused office or lunchroom or etc. wherever it is, it must be cleared out and used only for the election. further, no one can linger around the election area except for the NLRB board agent and a pre-set number of equal observer(s) from each side. Usually one for each side, and those observers cannot be the Union rep or head boss, but rather a secretary and rank and file worker. ballots are counted same day as election and barring any objections to election conduct, the results are immediately known. winning is 50%+1. that is for a hundred employees it is 51. easy enough. but for three employees, the win is 2. for twenty, it is 11, etc.

        that's it. or at least it should be it. what really happens is that once the boss gets wind of the election, he contacts a mgmt. side labor law firm. such law firms have "packages" to handle the union organizing campaign. some packages are minimal "guidance" for say $20K. some are more hands on for say $50K. I've heard the full blown Jackson Lewis (known nationwide terrible anti-union firm) union busting campaign complete with intimidation and wrongful termination suits is $100K for small-to mid-sized companies. This is big industry, union busting. Sometimes, companies hire lawyers and outside union busting consultants. My wife formerly worked for a large telecom company and when their union contract was expiring, (2500 members approx), they hired some union consultant from North carolina to help with negotiations and strike prep with an initial retainer of $250K. this didn't include the replacement workers they put on standby for $100K, nor did it include the attorneys fees. If anyone wants to read up on this, there was a book published abotu 6 years ago called "Confessions of a Union Buster" who detailed the tactics used to thwart organizing campaings. I have the book somewhere, so if anyone wants the publisher or author, I can get at some point.

        The purpose of the above is not to scare you, but rather to prepare you. The employer will know there is an election campaign. and they will fight it. and they will come to know who the nucleus is, almost always. will they take action? that remains to be seen. they usually do, but not always. you are protected during this campaign, even before filing a petition, since it is illegal to:

        "interfere with, restrain or coerce an employee in the exercise of their rights to self-organization, to form, join or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, or to refrain from any or all such activities".

        thus, even if you're merely agitating to get a union, but haven't done anything conrete yet, you're protected. You'd almost be protected for merely posting on this board with your question, but you are not communicatiing with a fellow employee here for protected acitvity. anyway, you get the idea.

        now here's the rub: you're only protected in what you can prove. the classic thing for employers to do in an organizing campagin is to fire an employee for something unrelated to union activity. for exmple, you show late to work. they fire. union files what's called an Unfair Labor Practice charge (ULP charge) challenging that you were targeted and fired for union activity. the employer responds that no, while you may have been engaged in union acitivity, it didn't care about that stuff but rather canned you because of being late. the union counters that the company has never had a history of firing people for being 5 minutes late. the company says yes, the union no, and you see what you get. In a ULP charge, at-will employment rules don't always apply if the union can show the company is using a general rule to target a union-sympathetic employee. Thus, the NLRB could rule against the company and reinstate you with backpay and a penalty to employer. In reality, however, the NLRB has become something of a bunch of mopes and it is hard to get them to move. But they do, and union's can be successful. Still, it can be hard to show that the company knew you were union-sympathetic. (you know, they target you but make no overt actions or statements, then when you're fired, they claim "we had no idea he was for the union").

        also, if the union election loses and they know who you are, start your unemployment application.

        now, with all of that stated, do you still want to form or organize? You should, but it is up to you. You stand a good risk of losing your job or some of those around you also. Why? for merely wanting to join with fellow employees for protection? well, that's the way it is. employers claim how teamwork is important and etc., but when you want real teamwork, joining together as one, bosses have a fit. consider it.

        also, btw, what state are you in? don't provide too much info, but generally speaking.

        curt j.


        • #5
          A word of caution, very often fellow employees will agree with you right up to the bosses door and suddenly disappear leaving you standing alone. A very bad situation for an individual to be in.


          • #6
            I am in the state of Ohio. For clarification, I work on what could be considered a 'help desk' as in taking phone calls from our employees regarding their computers and printers ect, although we do much more work than a typical 'help desk'... At this point I am passionate about what actions I would like to take, your words are encouraging. I am an avid workers rights supporter and beleive our government doesn't even come close to supporting the worker as they should. I argue that my department may not have it nearly as bad as others, but it's all relative. Just because it's not illegal, or not as bad as it could be doesn't make it right. As far as I'm concerned the cat will be out of the bag soon and if this union thing doesn't work out, at least I will have no regrets. Most will get fired at some point in their life, at least I will get fired fighting for what I beleive.


            • #7
              Also, rumor has it that our company has a clause in our contract that we are not allowed to organize. I have not fully read my contract, is this possible, and if so is it legal? Can we still organize even if this clause is in our contract?


              • #8
                Righteo, one more thing... Is it possible for me and my group to form our own union, as in not part of any other labor organization. As a whole we would like to represent ourselves as a group and no other business. My group would like me to be our representative, and no other labor rep to represent us. Is this a possibility?


                • #9
                  yes, no and yes

                  yes - you should go for it and Unionize, if that is your desire, and of those around you. congrats for taking action to (hopefully) make your workplace better.

                  no - the employer may not place a clause in their handbook or contract against organizing (with exception). this is illegal, prima facie illegal (thus maybe lending support to a claim that the employer has anti-union animus from Jump Street), and wouldn't stand in any court or tribunal such as the NLRB. the exception is if maybe the clause is not a "prohibition" against organizing, but rather a recitation of the law that you would be exempt from coverage of the NLRA (National Labor Relations Act is the law, National Labor Relations Board is the agency to enforce the law). That is, if you are a class of employees which cannot be organized, then the employer might simply have language which says under so and so law, X class of employees cannot organize. This would be acceptable as a recititation of the law. Note, however, that just cause the employer might consider you exempt, does not mean you actualy are exempt. this can be challenged.

                  finally, yes - you can start your own "independent" union. they're independent since they are not "affiliated" with an existing "historic" union. In your case, you'd be a captive union in the sense that your union is all employees in X class at Y company. Not several companies, just one. I've never researched the whole thing on forming a Union, but know enough to offer this. By joining together and calling yourself Amalgamated Help Desk Workers (or etc.), you've just created a union. I do not believe that the NLRB requires a formal formation. With that said, however, the federal govt. and perhaps state of ohio, places some (now) rather stringent reporting requirements on unions in the manner of reporting dues collected, use of dues, officers, officer salaries, etc. If this thing gets going, you'll want to form an IRS code 501(c)(5) corp, which is like a non-profit charity thing, but for labor organizations. this involves a couple forms with the irs. probably also involves filing some sort of corporate filing with ohio state, but maybe not since unions are generaly unincorporated associations. also, somethinig with the dol. you'd get a bank account and need a treasurer. you'd also need at least two officers, and a set of by-laws on electing officers, internal disputes, permissible use of dues, dues structure, etc.

                  But don't worry about this right now, first would be to gather a list of all employees and their titles. think of a name and who will "lead" the charge. then gather support and get authorization cards. Then, file a Petition with the NLRB. here, you have to decide whether you file yourself, and thus your name is on it, or to use a proxy such as an attorney. whatever, once filed things take off and you'll need some method of receiving faxes/phone calls from the NLRB to handle the petition. if you do this at work, you may get in trouble for mixing personal business in. Once a Union, you can negotiate into your contract that legitimate Union business can be conducted on company time. Until then, however, best keep it outside the workplace somehow.

                  As far as the NLRB goes, their website shows the following offices:

                  Cincinnati (Region 9)
                  John Weld Peck Federal Building
                  550 Main Street Room 3003
                  Cincinnati, OH 45202-3271
                  Regional Director: Gary Muffley
                  Hours of Operation: 8:30 am - 5:00 pm (EST)
                  TEL: 513-684-3686
                  FAX: 513-684-3946

                  Cleveland (Region 8)
                  1240 East 9th Street, Room 1695
                  Cleveland, OH 44199-2086
                  Regional Director: Frederick Calatrello
                  Hours of Operation: 8:15 am - 4:45 pm (EST)

                  TEL: 216-522-3716
                  FAX: 216-522-2418

                  cinci and cleveland are kinda far apart if you don't live north or south, but that's what their website shows.

                  as far as some attorneys go, I found in the AFL-CIO's Lawyers Coordinating Committe handbook list of union-side attorneys the following:

                  canfield: Robt. Moore, 114 Neff Drive, Canfield, OH 44406-1345 (330)519-9288ph/330-533-1162fx [email protected]

                  canton: Macala, Baasten, McKinley & Gore, 4150 Belden Village Street, #604, Canton, OH 44718 (330)493-1570ph/(330) 493-7042fx

                  Cinci: David Cook, 22 W. 9th Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202, (513) 721-7500ph/(513)721-1178

                  Cinci: Kircher, Robinson & Welch, 104 Vine Street, Suite 2520, Cincinnati, OH 45202 (513)381-3525ph/(513)381-5665

                  Cinci: Ann Lugbill, 2406 Auburn Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45219 (513)784-1280ph/(513)784-1449 [email protected]

                  Cinci: Manley & Burke, 225 W. Court Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202 (513)721)-5525ph/(513)763-6448fx

                  Cinci: Ulmer & Berne 600 Vine Street, Suite 2800, Cleveland, OH 44114 (513) 698-5000ph/(513)698-5001fx

                  Celevand: Faulkner, Muskovits & Phillips, 820 West Superior Avenue, Suite 900, Cleveland, OH 44113 (216)781-3600/(216) 781-8839fx

                  Cleveland: Goldstein & O'Connor, 526 Superior Avenue East, Suite 1040, Cleveland, OH 44114 (216)771-6633ph/(216)771-7559(fx)

                  Cleveland: Schwarzwald & McNair, 1300 East Ninth St, 616 Penton Media Bldg., Cleveland, OH 44114 (216) 566-1600ph/216-566-1814

                  Cleveland: Ulmer and Berne, 1300 East Ninth Street, Suite 900, Cleveland, OH 44114 (216)931-6192/(216)781-6193

                  Cleveland: Wuliger, Fadel & Beyer, 1340 Sumner Court, Cleveland, OH 44115 (216) 781-7777/(216)-781-0621fx

                  Clevelan HEIGHTS: Theodore Meckler, 1991 Lee Road, Suite 203, Cleveland Hts., OH 44118 (440) 333-6363ph/440-333-1491 fx

                  Columbus: Benesch, Friedlander , Coplan & Aronoff, 88 East Broad Street, 9th Floor, Columbus, OH 43215 (614)223-9300ph/614-223-9330fx

                  Columbus: Cloppert, Latnick & Sauter, 225 East Broad St, Columbus, OH 43215 614-461-4455ph/614-461-0072fx

                  Columbus: Handleman & Kilroy, 360 South Grant Avenue, Columbus, OH 43215 614-461-9212ph/614-461-9220fx

                  Columbus: Hunter, Carnahan, Shoub & Byard, 3360 Tremont Road, 2nd Fl., Columbus, OH 43221 614-442-5626ph/614-442-5625fx

                  Columbus: Stewart Jaffy & Assoc., 306 East Gay Street, Columbus, OH 43215 614-228-6148ph/614-228-6140fx

                  Dayton: Logothetis, Pence & Doll, 111 West First Street, Suite 1100, Dayton, OH 45402 937-461-5310ph/973-461-7219fx

                  Dayton: Rakay, Spicier & Ledbetter, 11 W. Monument Bldg., Suite 307, Dayton, OH 45402 (937)228-2696ph/973-228-5248fx

                  Perrysburg: Allotta, Farley & Widman, 27457 Holiday Lane, Suite W, Perrysburg, OH 43551, 419-874-7188ph/419-874-7189fx

                  Toledo: Alotta, Farley & Widman, 222 Centennial Rd., TOledo, OH 43617 419-535-0075ph/419-535-1935fx

                  Toledo: Gallon & Takacs, 3516 Granite Circle, Toledo, OH 43617, 419-843-2001ph/419-843-6665fx

                  Toledo: Harris, Reny & Torzenewski, 2 Maritime Plaza, 3d Fl., Toledo, OH 43604, 419-243-1105ph/419-243-8953fx

                  Toledo: Kalniz, Iorio & Feldstein, 5550 W. Central Ave, PO Box 352170, Toledo, OH 43635 419-537-4825ph/419-535-7732fx

                  Westlake: Short, Shepard & Stanton (dale Short) 24461 Detroit Rd., Suite 340, Westlake, OH 44145 440-899-9990ph/440-899-9907fx

                  Youngstown: Green, Haines and Sgambati, 16 Wick Ave, Suite 400, PO Box 849, Youngstown, OH 44501 330-743-5101ph/330-743-3451fx

                  Whew, what a list. Looks like ohio is still a strong union state. Anyway, I cannot state that any of these firms or attorneys are good or bad, or even still practicing. They are taken from a 2004 list of AFL-CIO attorneys. Not meaning tey work for the afl-cio, but rather that they've worked for the afl-cio or one of the afl-cio's unions, or one of the afl-cio's unions' local unions (e.g. local 123, IBT). Doesn't mean they did a good or bad job, but that they've done some work beyond one or two cases. What it does mean is that they generally know their stuff, are committed to unions, and can help.

                  whether you need an attorney or not is up to you. You can do this solo, but it may get very difficult, espcially if you go to hearing before the NLRB. However, your finances may dictate that you don't hire an attorney. Finally, on choosing an attorney, just make sure they've taken union cases to nlrb before (almost all have) and many will also help you early for little cost in anticipation of maybe more business down the road. You don't become a union attorney to get rich, and often make about 1/2 of what mgmt. attorneys make, so they know you don't have much money and may still be able to help. If you're serious about this, and it looks like you are, and this thing starts to gain momemtum, then you should at least contact an attorney, let him/her know who you are and what you're doing, and see what the costs are. If costs are too high, or you simply don't have money, make the connection anyway since there may come a time when you need to pick up the phone quickly and even without a full retainer, they might lend a hand.

                  so go to it. and document everything. keep copies. protect yourself. good luck.

                  curt j.


                  • #10
                    go for it......but i would highly recommend going with an existing union. the organizing team will keep you prepared for the companies "games", and they know how to effectively defeat such acts...that's what they do for a living. the company may also be less inclined to "push thier luck" against experienced organizers. you can still be the "voice" for your co-workers, as a member of the bargaining committee, steward, officer in the union "local", etc. going with a historic union also gives your thier power and experience at the negotiating table, and this is PRICELESS!!!!!!!!

                    for the record, i went thru an nlrb election about 2 yrs ago, we are IAMAW


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