How Does Organizing Work?

Once a strong majority of employees commit to supporting the union, the majority authorizes AFSCME to file a petition for a union election.  After a majority of employees vote yes, management will be legally obligated to negotiate with employees as equals over wages, benefits, and work rules.

 In the meantime, you will form a committee of your co-workers to work alongside AFSCME’s professional negotiator at the bargaining table. This Bargaining Committee will find out from members like you, the priorities employees have for upcoming negotiations.

 Once a tentative first contract is reached between the Bargaining Committee and management, the contract will be voted on by all of the union members at your workplace. If a majority votes to accept the contract, it will go into effect.

 How long does this process take?

It can vary dramatically.  It depends largely on the employees who are organizing the local, how much time folks can commit to the process, how easy it is to speak with everyone involved, and how quickly employees can move through the steps needed to organize.

 The time between starting to organize and holding a successful election typically takes more than a few months and less than a year, but each campaign is unique. Throughout the effort, AFSCME will provide staff to assist workers who want to organize. 

 Why do we pay dues?

Dues allow workers to pool their limited resources together to fight to improve working conditions, wages & benefits.  But you do not begin paying dues until the first contract is signed. You will receive the resources and staff support of the union for many months before you begin paying dues. 

 In AFSCME, members pay up to 1.615% of your base pay (before overtime) for union dues.  This is a fraction of the increases that are won in wages and benefits negotiated as a result of joining AFSCME. Your dues are an investment in yourself, your family and your future!

 A portion of your dues is returned to your local’s treasury each month & is used for regular membership meetings, to educate and empower the membership, and to send members to leadership conferences and conventions where policies are set that govern our union.

 What happens to my dues?

 Your dues pay for a wide range of resources, staff, services and supplies that all exist for one reason: to help members improve their pay, benefits and working conditions. The following are just some examples of the services your dues pay for:

  • Expert negotiators to help you bargain a strong contract;
  • Professional labor representatives to help you solve on-the-job problems;
  • Lawyers to help with legal research and work-related legal matters, from contract language to investigative matters and grievance proceedings;
  • Communications professionals who will help communicate your issues to the media and keep you informed of workplace struggles across your state and the nation;
  • Researchers and a computerized databank of the over 3,000 plus contracts covered by AFSCME across the nation;
  • Budget experts who will analyze your employer’s budget and find hidden and wasted funds to pay for your raises and other benefits;
  • Educators to train your local union leaders in how to provide you with strong, effective representation;
  • Skilled lobbyists working for your interests regarding working family issues in Minnesota, South Dakota, and in Washington DC;
  • Organizers who work to steadily increase the number of represented employees, strengthen our collective voice in all arenas where important decisions are made about the quality of working people’s lives.

 More Questions & Answers – Employees Rights and Union elections

 What if the employer does not want a union?
Most often the employer may not want one.  But in the United States workers have the right to organize and support a union in their workplace.  The Laws are clear: it is illegal for any employer to interfere with employees that are organizing.  This means that the employer could face charges if they intimidate, coerce, or fire employees.  Nor can the employer suddenly make promises of better pay or promotions to expressly signal to employees that they don’t need a union.    

Can I talk to co-workers about the union at work?
Yes.  The laws are clear on this too.  Your First Amendment Rights—to free speech—allow you to talk to your co-workers about anything at work, AS LONG AS YOU ARE NOT PREVENTING THEM FROM DOING THEIR WORK.  If you make a habit at work of disrupting other workers to talk about ANYTHING—football, cars, or weather—you could probably be fired.  The same is true if you disrupt work discussing unions.  Break times are a good time to discuss, ask, and answer questions with each other about the union.

 How does an election work?
You may be asked by a co-worker or AFSCME staff-organizer “what do you think about the union . . . do you support the idea?”  You can ask questions to learn more.  If you’re interested in holding an election—to let the employees decide—you are asked to complete an interest card. 

 Filling out an interest card DOES NOT make you a member, and the cards are NEVER shared with the employer!

  • For Public Employees, interest cards are ONLY shared with the Minnesota or South Dakota governing agency if we have enough support to file for a union election;
  • For Private employees, those cards are ONLY shared with the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) if we have enough support to file for a union election.

 If the State Agency or NLRB decides there is enough interest, they then announce and facilitate an election.   If a majority of you and your co-workers vote for a union, then the employer and the employee union start negotiating a contract.     

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