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  • Employees: How to Organize Your Work Place
    Updated On: Jul 26, 2007

    Getting union representation is the best way to gain the working conditions that you and your co-workers deserve. With a union, you have the legal right to bargain over your pay, benefits, employment security, health and safety, and retirement, etc. A union also gives you the ability to negotiate over company policies that affect promotions, job bidding, layoffs, and many other aspects of your job.

    Interested in organizing a union in your workplace? A union is simply a majority of employees who join together to better their work lives.

    Know Your Rights

    Under the National Labor Relations Action (NLRA) you have the legal right to form a union in your workplace. The NLRA says:

    • Section 7: "Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representation of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining . . . ."
    • Section 8(a): "It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer . . . to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in section 7. . . ."

    It is Your Legal Right as an Employee to:

    • Join a union of your choosing.
    • Attend a union meeting on your own time.
    • Sign a union card or get others to sign cards.
    • Talk to a union organizer.
    • Declare yourself a union supporter.
    • Assist in forming a union.
    • Talk union to other employees.
    • Wear union buttons or pass out union literature.
    • Join together and work as a team in order to help each other.
    • Deal with their employer as a group, rather than individually.
    • Take group action as necessary in order to gain desired goals so long as these actions violate no other laws.

    It does not mean that Employees have the Right to:

    • Carry on union activity during working hours or to allow their union activity to interfere with their jobs. (For this purpose, break time and lunch time are not considered as working hours).

    Even though it is illiegal for employers to hinder your interest in the union, many employers strongly resist their employees' efforts to gain a voice at work through unionization. See a list of some of the many illiegal activities that employers will engage in to sway votes against a union. many employers strongly resist their employees' efforts to gain a voice at work through unionization. So, before you start talking union with your employers, get in contact with IATSE 122 officials right away to make sure your rights are protected.

    Getting Started

    To get a union started, the first thing you need to do is quietly talk to your co-workers. Do they share the same concerns you have? Or, do they have other issues? Is there a common theme to these concerns such as lack of respect and dignity; lack of a voice in the workplace; unfair treatment; and/or wages and benefits lower than other people working in the same industry?

    Contact IATSE Local 122

    Our experience tells us that it's best when workers organize themselves if they are to create a viable organization in their workplace. IATSE organizers and staff will help. After talking with your co-workers to find out their issues, you should contact IATSE Local 122 to talk with a union organizer. He or she will set up a meeting with you and some of your co-workers. Together, you will create a plan for a organizing a union in your workplace.

    A Typical Organizing Campaign

    The campaign will consist of talking with co-workers about the union, asking them to sign a petition of support. When there is a majority of support (Over 50% of employees have signed the petition of support), the union will file for an election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Usually, the NLRB will then meet with the union and the employer to establish the criteria for employees who will be eligible to vote in the union election. The NLRB sets a date for a secret ballot election.

    What You Can Do

    Under Section 7 of the NLRA, you have the legal right to:

    1. Attend meetings to discuss joining a union.
    2. Read, distribute, and discuss union literature (as long as you do this in non-work areas during non-work times, such as during breaks or lunch hours).
    3. Wear union buttons, t-shirts, stickers, hats, or other items on the job.
    4. Sign a card asking your employer to recognize and bargain with the union.
    5. Sign petitions or file grievances related to wages, hours, working conditions, and other job issues.
    6. Ask other employees to support the union, to sign union cards or petitions, or to file grievances.

    Bargaining A Contract

    After the union's election victory is officially certified by the NLRB, your employer is legally required to negotiate in "good faith" with the union on a written contract covering wages, hours, and other working conditions. At this point, the IATSE business agent and staff will consult with you and your co-workers about what is important for you to gain in a collective bargaining agreement and what you are willing to bend on. Negotiating is a give-and-take process, however the IATSE will always take the primary interest of the employees first.


  • International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, It's territories and Canada, AFL-CIO, CLC, Local 122 - San Diego

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