Step 9—Make the Union “Official”

Now you and your Organizing Committee have assessed the campaign. You’ve determined that you have a good chance of winning based on your careful and honest assessment.  The next step then is to make the union you’ve built “official” by either requesting voluntary recognition and/or filing for a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board or with another agency if the group is not covered under the NLRA.

The NLRB website can guide you through the forms you’ll need and all the steps. Here’s an example of what’s included in the NLRB Representation Case Handling:

  • Chapter 1--Jurisdiction [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 2--Regional Directors' Decisionmaking Authority in Representation Cases [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 3--Initial Representation Case Procedures [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 4--Types of Petitions [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 5--Showing of Interest [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 6--Qualification of Representative [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 7--Existence of a Representation Question [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 8--Disclaimer of Interest and Withdrawal of Petition [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 9--Contract Bar [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 10--Prior Determinations and Other Bars to an Election [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 11--Amendment, Clarification, and Deauthorization Petitions, Final Offer Elections and Wage-Hour Certifications [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 12--Appropriate Unit: General Principles [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 13--Multilocation Employers [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 14--Multiemployer, Single Employer, and Joint Employer Units [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 15--Specific Units and Industries [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 16--Craft and Traditional Departmental Units [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 17--Statutory Exclusions [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 18--Statutory Limitations [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 19--Categories Governed by Board Policy [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 20--Effect of Status or Tenure on Unit Placement and Eligibility to Vote [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 21--Self-Determination Elections [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 22--Representation Case Procedures Affecting the Election [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 23--Voting Eligibility [HTML] [PDF]
  • Chapter 24--Interference with Elections [HTML] [PDF]
  • Table of Cases Discussed [HTML] [PDF]
  • Subject Matter Index [HTML] [PDF]

Union Recognition Alternatives to the NLRB Election

NLRB elections generally leave the door wide open for the employer to engage in endless delay tactics. Consider the list below for alternatives to NLRB elections as well as other means to organize new members.

Public Sector Election and/or Card Check

Public employers tend to be less aggressively anti-union.  Community support and political leverage often are effective tools with public sector employers. In some states with a public employee relations commission, card check can be mandated with a certain level of showing of interest, thus avoiding a prolonged election process. Check out your state laws concerning this process.

Third Party Elections

Some employers can be pressured into agreeing to hold a non-NLRB secret ballot election with public officials, community groups or clergy presiding over the process. Make sure rules and procedures are clearly negotiated and committed to writing (especially a process and definition of objectionable conduct). The advantage with this type of election is that it can, if negotiated correctly, avoid lengthy delays and employer stall tactics. Try getting a neutrality agreement as part of the deal.

Card Check/Voluntary Recognition

Often a card check by a third party agreement contains a neutrality clause. Take a look at a few examples here. A whole campaign strategy needs to be developed usually to convince an employer a neutrality agreement/card check is in his/her best interest.

Organizing for Voluntary Recognition

The time honored take to the streets method of agitating until the employer begs for labor peace. The “Justice for Janitors” or “Hotel Workers Rising” campaigns provide large-scale examples of this organizing model. Smaller scale campaigns can also be effective if carried out properly.

Uniting Small Units Through a Master Agreement

Difficult but not impossible. Some Locals have trade section offices under one Master Agreement. This strategy can also work where you may have several bargaining units with one employer and it makes more sense for members to combine under one agreement.

Self-Determination Election

When an existing union seeks to add a group of previously unrepresented employees to its existing unit as opposed to seeking a representation election for a separate unit. Also different than an “accretion” where a “unit clarification” process occurs absent a representation election. Go to the NLRB website for further information at

Accretion or Unit Clarification

Some situations are more appropriate for a “unit clarification” to be filed with the NLRB to determine whether or not accretion principles apply, thus avoiding a representation election. Go to the NLRB website for further information at

Residual Units

Take a look at where you currently represent members. Does this worksite have a group of employees who generally have varied classifications and skills and may not fit into the current bargaining unit definition, yet are unrepresented? This often occurs in the public sector. These workers may constitute a “residual unit” and you could provide the with the opportunity for representation.

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Office and Professional Employees International Union was chartered in 1945 and with more than 104,000 members (representing 110,000 employees) strong, we’re one of the larger unions of the AFL-CIO.  OPEIU has locals in every state, Puerto Rico and Canada. 

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