Union Facts

Q: How does the union work?

A: A union is a democratic organization of a majority of the employees in a facility. The basic idea of a union is that by joining together with fellow employees to form a union, workers have a greater ability to improve conditions at the worksite. In other words, “In unity, there is strength.”


Q: What does signing a card mean?

A: It means you want the union. The card is a commitment of support.  It gives us the legal support for an open and free union election.


Q: What will be in our contract?

A: It is for the union employees to decide what to negotiate for. Your co-workers are already talking about many issues that are important to them at union meetings. After you win union recognition, you will select a negotiating committee of co-workers. Then, with the assistance of union negotiators, the committee will sit down with management to negotiate a contract. The law says that both sides must bargain “in good faith” to reach an agreement on wages, benefits, and working conditions. The contract will only take effect after it is approved by a majority of the workers. It is not possible to know exactly what will be in the first contract. Our goal will be to win improvements with each contract.


Q: Who runs the union?

A: The union is a democratic organization run by the members. Members elect the local officers. You vote on many issues of importance to you. You vote on your contract. Union members elect delegates to national conventions, where delegates elect national officers and vote on major issues affecting the union such as constitutional amendments. The union is the people themselves.


Q: Won’t it cost the company a lot of money if the union comes in?

A: Companies are in business to make money. Employees go to work to make money. A union is a mechanism to help the workers get a fair wage, fair benefits, and dignified working conditions for their employment. A union helps you, the worker, to get the fair market value for the labor that you provide to the company. Over the long term, having a union can help employers. They can bid on more jobs, they have a supply of trained workers to bid on larger jobs, and union employees have higher morale. Satisfied employees are more productive and less likely to quit, so there is less turnover. Also, management benefits when it gets input from the workers on how the operation could be run better.


Q: Can I be fired for participating in the campaign?

A:  The law prohibits any employer from discriminating against people in any way because of their union activity. If an employer does harass or discriminate against a union supporter, the union files a charge with the Labor Board, which prosecutes the employer to the fullest extent. The best safeguard against the employer harassing anyone is for everybody to stick together and win their right to union representation. Without a union, management has a free hand to treat people as they please. With a union, everyone has the protection of a union contract, and that is much better than a company’s promises.


Q: What can the union do about favoritism?

A: Fairness is the most important part of the union contract. The same rules apply to everyone. If any worker feels that they are not being treated fairly, then they still have the opportunity to complain to the supervisor, just like before. With a union contract, the supervisor or manager no longer has the final say. They are no longer judge and jury. If the worker is not satisfied with the response of the supervisor, the worker can file a grievance.


Q: How can the union help with a grievance?

The first step of a grievance procedure is for the steward to accompany the worker to try to work it out with the supervisor. If the worker is not satisfied, the steward and the employee, with help from the union business agent, can bring the grievance to higher management. If the complaint is not resolved, then the issue can be placed before an outside neutral judge called an arbitrator.


Q: Management is hinting that we could lose the benefits we now have. Is that true?

A: By joining IBEW Local 332, all workers have the same high pay with a full benefits package including full family healthcare and employer-paid retirement.


Q: Management talks about the union being bad and corrupt. Is that true?

A: The truth is that unions are decent, honest organizations dedicated to improving the lives of working people. Union organizations are held accountable to strict federal laws that govern everything from how elections for officers are run to strict accounting and auditing of all union funds. All union contracts and local union spending is voted on by the members. All officers of the union are voted on by the members.  


Q: The employer says the union can’t guarantee us anything. Can you?

A: This union, IBEW Local 332, can guarantee this: We have been representing workers here in Silicon Valley for over 110 years, and we plan to continue doing so. We can also guarantee that when workers stick together as a union, we have more bargaining power and more of a voice than we do as individuals. By joining 332, you will have the same contract as other members of your classification and be an important part of contract negotiations every few years. We make no promises on what the contract will contain, aside from fair wages, fair benefits, and dignified working conditions. We can guarantee that the contract will be legally binding, and the union will make sure the contract is enforced. All contracts are voted on by the members.


Q: Why should we pay dues money to the union?

A: The local union operates and functions with the dues money that comes from each member. The dues are divided between the local union and the national union. The money is used to provide expert services to your local union, including negotiators, lawyers, economists, and educators; to pay the salaries of officers and staff, including organizers and dispatch workers; to provide newsletters and other member communications; and send member delegates to conferences. The local union’s money is used for reimbursing stewards for lost time, for the union hall, and for other expenses of your union. Employers have their own ”unions” they pay dues to, such as the Chamber of Commerce or the National Association of Manufacturers. They pay for representation–why shouldn’t you?


Q: How much are union dues?

A: The dues will depend upon what the local needs to operate efficiently and effectively. However, the dues will be set by you, as a local union, with the exception of the International Union portion of the dues, which is set and voted by all local unions at the IBEW International Convention every five (5) years. However, no dues are paid until the majority of workers vote to accept a contract they helped to negotiate. 


Q: Management has hinted there will be a strike if we organize.

A: Management talks a lot about strikes during an organizing drive. 98% of union contracts are settled without a strike. There could only be a strike if you – the employees – vote for the strike. And it’s only smart to vote for a strike if you know you can win. The employer doesn’t want a strike any more than the workers do, so everyone has an incentive to reach a compromise during bargaining.


Q: How do we go about getting a union at our shop? 

A: To unionize your shop and organize others, contact Pete Seaberg at pseaberg@ibew332.org.