Frequently Asked Questions

What is a union?

A union is a democratic organization of employees in a workplace who choose to join together to achieve common goals. By forming unions, employees can work collectively to improve working conditions, including wages and benefits, hours and job safety, to resolve disagreements of employees and employers and to find the best ways to get the work done. Unions also represent members and all people who work by advocating working family-friendly laws and policies through legislative and political action. Most people who work in this country have the right to form and join unions under the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which encourages union formation. Yet millions of workers, such as farm laborers, domestic workers and managers, are not covered by the NLRA. Many of them, though, are organizing and partnering with the AFL-CIO to gain workplace rights.

How do workers form a union?

Every organizing campaign is different, but in all cases it helps to understand each step of the organizing process as well as the legal rights that protect you during an organizing drive.

STEP ONE: Know Your Rights

Federal and state laws guarantee the right to form unions. Eligible employees have the right to express their views on unions, to talk with their co-workers about their interest in forming a union, to wear union buttons and to attend union meetings. (Supervisors and a few other types of employees customarily are excluded from coverage.)

Despite these laws, many employers strongly resist their employees’ efforts to gain a voice at work through unionization. So, before you start talking union where you work, get in touch with a union that will help you organize.

STEP TWO: Find Out Which Union Is Right for You

To form a union on the job, you need the backup and hands-on help from the union you are seeking to join. If you don’t already know which union is most able to help you, find out more about the unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO by visiting their websites. Many of these websites enable you to contact the right person there directly to help you form a union.

In communities across the country, the AFL-CIO has local and state councils where unions come together to work toward common goals. To find out about union activity in your community, visit the website of your state federation of labor or central labor council or check local directory assistance for this phone listing. Staff members at these offices can put you in touch with a local union that is right for you.

STEP THREE: Find Out About Working America

If forming a union with your coworkers isn’t a real possibility for you, you can still be a part of the union movement by joining Working America, the AFL-CIO’s community affiliate for people who don’t have a union at work.

STEP FOUR: Get in Touch with a Union Organizer

Union organizers assist employees in forming unions on the job to give them the same opportunity for a say at work, good wages and decent working conditions.

Get more information from the AFL-CIO here.

Does the law protect workers joining unions?

Working people in America have certain basic legal rights to safe, healthy and fair conditions at work. But many employers—perhaps yours—violate these fundamental rights because they value their profits more than their workers.

Click here to find out more about your rights at work.

What kinds of workers are forming unions today?

A wider range of workers than ever before are joining unions—doctors and nurses, agriculture workers and graduate employees at universities, home health care aides and wireless communications workers, auto parts workers and engineers…and that’s just to name a few.

How do unions help working families today?

Unions are helping workers win better wages, benefits and a voice on the job. Good union jobs mean stronger communities. Union workers earn 30% more than nonunion workers and are more likely to receive health care and pension benefits than those without a union. In 2005, median weekly earnings for full-time union wage and salary workers were $833, compared with $642 for their nonunion counterparts. Unions lead the fight today for better lives for working people, such as through expanded family and medical leave, improved safety and health protections and fair-trade agreements that lift the standard of living for workers all over the world.

What have unions accomplished for all workers?

Unions have made life better for all working Americans by helping to pass laws that provide protection for workers. Unions have played a key role in ending child labor, establishing the eight-hour day, protecting workers’ safety and health and helping create Social Security, unemployment insurance and a living wage.

What is the Labor Council?

The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council is the local central body affiliate of the AFL-CIO. The Labor Council offers an avenue for local unions to come together as a unified group to improve the lives of working families.

The San Diego Labor Council includes approximately 135 affiliated labor groups within San Diego and Imperial Counties with a membership of more than 250,000 local working families.

We are not a union, but a union of unions. We cover every sector of the workplace, including members in the building and construction trades, hotel workers, longshoremen, nurses, fire fighters, teachers, electricians, postal workers and hundreds of others in San Diego and Imperial Counties.

How can I get involved with the Labor Council?

You can join the labor movement in San Diego many different ways!

 Get Active in Your Union or Organize a Union
If you do not have a union at your job, let us help you find out more on how to form one. Visit our Organizing page for more information.

Volunteer Your Time
The Labor Council needs volunteers all year long.  Together we walk precincts, work phone banks and assist with organizing actions. Complete a volunteer form online today.

Intern at the San Diego Labor Council 
We are always looking for hard working individuals committed to advocating for working families in the region. Find out more about our Internship opportunities.

Attend a Union Action or Community Event
Sign-up for our newsletter to receive updates on upcoming Union actions and community events.

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