The following are some answers to common employee questions about union representation:
1. Question: What can people expect or be guaranteed, if the union wins?
Answer: If the union is certified, the only guarantee is that the company and the union will meet in an effort to reach agreement. There are no assurances or guarantees as to what may or may not happen as a result of “good-faith” negotiations. In fact, there are no assurances as to how long contract negotiations will take...or even if an agreement can be reached.
Sometimes union organizers or union supporters will make promises that they cannot guarantee or “make happen.”
2. Question: If the union is voted in and certified, how soon could
Answer:: Bargaining could not begin until the National Labor Relations Board certifies the election. Typically, certification usually occurs eight (8) to ten (10) days following an election. However, if objections to the election are filed, a lengthy investigation period is sometimes required that would considerably delay certification of the results and could result in a second election.
3. Question: How long does the bargaining process take?
Answer: There is no pat answer. No one can predict exactly how long bargaining could take. Typically, the process will span many months. Frequently, an initial (first) contract can take six (6) months or up to twelve (12) or more months. Also, the law does not force the parties to agree if they can't reach an agreement.
4. Question: Can’t a union guarantee job security, wage increases or benefit improvements?
Answer: No. Union organizers are the “sales people” of a union and, therefore, may promise almost anything to get employees to vote for union representation and to pay union dues. Everything that employees currently have can be the subject of negotiations. Remember, while the law does mandate an obligation to bargain in “good faith” on both parties, the union and the Company, “such obligation does not compel either party to agree to a proposal or require the making of a concession (National Labor Relations Act).”
5. Question: If the union is voted in, who will represent me?
Answer: If the union is voted in, the union would represent all of the employees in that particular bargaining unit, regardless if some of the employees in the unit don’t like the union. With a union, an employee gives up his/her individual right to speak as an individual regarding anything that pertains to his/her wages, benefits, hours, and working conditions. Instead, the employee must go to the union representative (whomever that person turns out to be). This is because under the law, the union becomes the “exclusive bargaining representative” of ALL employees in a given bargaining unit.
6. Question: Some employees may have been told that, in the process of negotiations, wages and benefits can only get better as a result of bargaining
or that “we can’t lose anything we currently have now.” . . . Is this true?
Answer: No, this is false. In fact, while people can get increases as a result of bargaining, things could also stay the same, or things could get worse (in terms of wages and/or other conditions of employment). In fact, even the NLRB has affirmed the statement that “collective bargaining is potentially hazardous for employees and that as a result of such negotiations employees might possibly wind up with less benefits after unionization than before (Coach & Equipment Sales Corp; 94 LRRM 1392).”
7. Question: Can we get rid of the union if things don’t work out?
Answer: Some people may have told you that you can easily get rid of a union if things don’t work out, or if you decide you don’t like it. Don’t believe it! Once a union is present, it’s often “for keeps.” This is because the process to get rid of a union, which is called “decertification,” can be a very difficult process. As union members, even though employees have a legal right, unions typically forbid their members from attempting decertification of the union (it’s against their rules).
8. Question: Is a union required to accept a company's last and final offer,
good or bad?
Answer: No. A union is not required to accept an offer from a company, good or bad. If the offer rejected is the company’s last and final, and the parties have reached a bona fide impasse in negotiations, the union may:
A. Call a strike...or
B. Elect to continue to work without a contract…or
C. In the face of an impasse in negotiations, the company is legally permitted to implement its last and final offer or lockout the unionized employees.
9. Question: If the union goes out on strike, would I be allowed to cross the picket line to come to work?
Answer: While employees do have the legal right to cross a picket line, most unions have rules prohibiting union members from crossing a picket line, or working as a “strikebreaker” or “scab.” In fact, it is not unheard of for union members to have been put on trial by unions for having crossed picket lines and either fined money, or to have some other form of union penalty imposed.