As a union member, you can take pride in knowing you are part of a movement that stands for good American jobs and the value of an honest day’s work.
With a union, you bring democracy to the workplace. Instead of just taking whatever benefits and policies your employer decides to implement, workers in a union work together to draw up a contract between employees and the company. The employer is legally bound to stick to your agreement and can’t just change any policy without input from you and your coworkers.
In union there is strength. Without a union you have only the minimum rights provided by law such as minimum wage, overtime after 40 hours and unemployment insurance. With a union, you can work on improving policies that are specific to the needs of your workplace and your industry and have a clear way to work out problems and new ideas with management without fearing for your job or being brushed off.
A union contract is a legal document that spells out your rights, your job security and your benefits. It is an agreement between your employer and the union that you have elected as the official representative of you and your coworkers. It provides clear language both you and your employer can refer back to and see exactly what conditions you are agreeing to work under.
When workers come together and vote for a union, they elect a negotiating committee from among their co-workers to represent them during negotiations. The negotiating committee then draws up a contract proposal, based on meetings, discussions and worker survey results, to present to management. You can negotiate for any and all reasonable items that affect you on your job. Contracts usually last between 3 to 5 years.
In order for the contract to be ratified, a majority of the workers voting need to accept the proposal. If workers feel they haven’t gained enough in the contract, they can reject the contract when it is time to vote. If a majority vote against the contract, the negotiating committee will go back to the bargaining table, or ask the employees to vote on whether or not to strike. Strikes, which require a two-thirds majority vote, are rare and only occur as a last resort. Managers, union leaders, security guards, etc… are not allowed to vote on a contract.
The rules of how the union operates are defined by local bylaw and in the UFCW Constitution, which is voted on and amended every five years by elected delegates sent to the International Convention.
Like members of most organizations, we pay dues. Our dues bring large rewards in pay raises, benefits, job security, representation and working conditions. The added pay and benefits workers receive through belonging to the union are much more than the cost of union dues. The dues go to pay for organizers, legal assistance, support staff, rent, materials, etc… which are all needed to maintain good contracts and adequate representation. No one pays dues until workers have voted to accept a contract.
Whether or not to go on strike is a decision made by you and your co-workers. A strike is not authorized unless two-thirds of the workers voting on the contract vote to go on strike.
Strikes are uncommon. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 99% of all contracts are negotiated without strikes. A strike is really only even a possibility if management refuses to negotiate honestly and fairly. Of the thousands of contracts negotiated by UFCW members around the country, less than one percent ever reach a strike situation.