When workers come together to form a union, they change the basic power relationship at work. Without a union, employers have almost all the rights. They can change your pay and working conditions at any time. Any benefits you receive are at the discretion of your employer.

Once you form a union, your employer cannot make changes in your working conditions unless they are negotiated with you as union members.

Any benefits or working conditions covered by your contract are protected by law.

When you negotiate your contract, you and your co-workers decide what kinds of things could be improved at your work site and make proposals to your employer. Your employer is legally obligated to negotiate over most proposals that affect the quality of your work life. In many union worksites there are also Labor Management Committees that allow workers to address issues directly with managers even when we are not in contract negotiations. A union gives you strength in numbers to improve your pay, benefits, and working conditions.

Why join a union?

Have you ever had an idea on how to make your job and where you work better in some way? Throughout history, working people have stood together to have a voice where they work and a seat at the table to negotiate good wages and decent benefits for their families. This simple concept can apply to everyone, regardless of where you work or who your boss is.

People who work for a living know about the inequality of power between employers and employees. Workers form unions to counter-balance the unchecked power of employers. With a union, working people win basic rights, like a say in their jobs, safety and security. Unions fight discrimination because union contracts ensure all workers are treated fairly and equally. When there’s a problem on the job, workers and management can work together as equals to solve it.

How do people form a union?

When workers decide they want to come together to improve their jobs, they work with a union to help them form their own local chapter. Once a majority of workers show they want a union, sometimes employers honor the workers’ choice. Often, the workers must ask the government to hold an election. If the workers win their union, they negotiate a contract with the employer that spells out each party’s rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

Does the law protect workers forming unions?

Under the law, employers are not allowed to discriminate against or fire workers for choosing to join a union. For example, it’s illegal for employers to threaten to shut down their businesses or to fire employees or take away benefits if workers form a union.

What kinds of workers are forming unions today?

A wider range of people than ever before, including many women and immigrants, are joining unions— child care providers, digital news staff, doctors and nurses, poultry workers and graduate employees, home health care aides, auto parts workers and engineers, to name a few.

How do unions help working families today?

Through unions, workers win better wages, benefits and a voice on the job—and good union jobs mean stronger communities. Union workers earn on average about 25 percent more than non-union workers and are more likely to receive health care and pension benefits than those without a union. Unions continue to lead the fight today for better lives for working people, such as through expanded family and medical leave, improved safety and health protections, and fighting for fair-trade agreements that lift the standard of living for workers all over the world.

What have unions accomplished for all workers?

Unions are continuing the fight today to improve life for all working families in America. Check out what working people standing together have won for our country:

  • Family & Medical Leave Act
  • Pregnancy & Parental Leave
  • All Breaks at Work (including Lunch Breaks)
  • Weekends & Paid Vacation
  • Sick Leave
  • Minimum Wage
  • Social Security
  • Overtime & Holiday Pay
  • Child Labor Laws
  • Privacy Rights
  • Civil Rights
  • Homeowners’ Bill of Rights
  • 40 Hour Work Week
  • Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
  • 8-Hour Work Day
  • Military Leave
  • Protections for immigrant workers
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Unemployment Insurance
  • Wrongful Termination Laws
  • Sexual Harassment Laws
  • Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Employer Dental, Life, & Vision Insurance
  • Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011

On Being a Union Member

No one can better convey what it means to be a union member than union members themselves.

Haydee Malacas

Community Representative

Linda Ginn

Special Education Trainee

Tanya Walters

School Bus Driver

Carlos Diaz


Margaret Williams

Food Service Worker

Tonia McMillian

Family Child Care Provider