Becoming a Union Shop

Q: Stay with Your Current Employer!

When workers unite and share their concerns, that is one step to becoming a union. When you and your coworkers form a union, you gain a voice in decisions that affect your job, your future, and your family. Unfortunately, management sometimes doesn’t like the idea of sharing decision-making power with employees. So management’s first reaction may be to make a lot of misleading statements to try to convince you not to join together. 


Q: Management: One of the most common statements management makes in response to employees unionizing is, “A union is a third party that will come between us. We can work things out together in a peaceful way. Once a union is involved, it becomes hostile.”

Fact: The IBEW is a democratic, member-run organization. When you unionize, it simply means that you have an organized, collective voice to create a uniform set of agreements about pay and benefits, reduce favoritism, and have a formal procedure for solving problems on the job. You will be a part of negotiating your contract, and you vote on whether to approve it.  


Q: Management: “The union will make you go on strike.”

Fact: Strikes are rare. They are an absolute last resort and are hard on everyone involved, so we try to avoid them. In fact, Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) prevent work stoppages for all crafts. The Santa Clara/San Benito County Building Trades Department negotiate many PLAs and secure billions of dollars on projects of all kinds.      


Q: Management: “If you form a union, you risk losing benefits and pay raises.”

Fact: It is illegal for a company to freeze or cut previously scheduled raises to discourage you from forming a union. Once you’re organized, you’ll lock in our current wages and benefits and then negotiate improvements from there. All of you will get an opportunity to review your proposed contract before you vote to approve it. Obviously, you’re not going to approve a contract that cuts your wages or benefits.


Q: Management: “The union just wants your dues money.”

Fact: As newly organized IBEW members, you won’t pay dues until you’ve negotiated and voted to approve your first contract—and decided for yourselves whether it’s worth it. Every serious organization—business organizations, churches, clubs, etc.—has to have some kind of funding, and unions are no different. Dues pay for the costs of contract negotiations, dispatch, grievances, and arbitrations; training for members; legal fees; and support, so no worker has to go it alone.


Q: Management: “With a union, you won’t be allowed to talk to your supervisor—you’ll have to go through the union.”

Fact: The IBEW has found that having a union strengthens communication between employees and supervisors. Direct relationships with immediate supervisors continue, and you can negotiate to retain any good policy and procedures already in place. The advantage of joining together in a union is that you’re able to make your voices heard at the upper levels of management where key decisions are made.


Q: Management: “The improvements we’re willing to make right now show that you don’t need a union.”

Fact: It’s great that management is responding to your concerns. It shows that when you join together, your voices are heard. By forming a union, you ensure this progress continues—you’ll build an ongoing dialogue with management on all your issues. You’ll also have peace of mind with a union—since the improvements you agree on will be guaranteed in your union contract.


Keep in mind that it’s normal for some tension to arise when workers start to build a union. But the tension is temporary. After you vote to form a union, management gets used to the idea of you having a voice on the job. No matter what management says, stay focused on your shared goals: to make your workplace the best possible place to work.

To unionize your shop and organize others, contact Pete Seaberg at