When union is used in daily language, it represents joining together or combination. But when it is in your workplace — what does it mean?
Webster defines a labor union as “an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members’ interests in respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions.” 


The National Labor Relations Board protects the rights of most private-sector employees to join together, with or without a union, to improve their wages and working conditions. If you believe your rights have been violated, or that an employer or a union has engaged in unlawful conduct, you may file a charge through one of our regional offices. Petitions for representation and decertification elections may also be filed at regional offices.” The NLRB website has a host of information about your rights as an employee, how to submit a complaint, and rights about strikes. 

You may be asking yourself “Why didn’t my workplace mention that I could join a union on my first day?” 

Not all industries, job types or businesses automatically seek to be unionized, but you have the right to unionize no matter how few or many workers are in your company or department. In 2014, 41 Macy’s Fragrance and Cosmetics workers were told they could vote to decide whether to join a labor union or not, according to Reuters.  

The NLRB says, “Most employees in the private sector are covered under the NLRA (National Labor Relations Act). The law does not cover government employees, agricultural laborers, independent contractors, and supervisors (with limited exceptions).” 

The AFL-CIO: America’s Unions is a host of 55 unions with their own memberships and voices. This is a great resource to start with in seeing what kinds of unions there are to start. Once you have some ideas of what kind of union you want to seek, it is time to take to your coworkers and find those with a mutual interest in being a voice in your workplace.

It is your right to discuss unionizing, but this does not mean there will not be any questions. Expect to see pushback from leadership, but remember this is a right. The NLBR shares a guide on the laws that apply when you are not represented by a union, are looking to start a union, and once you are a part of a union. 

The AFL-CIO explains some of the benefits of unionizing: 

  • Union members earn better wages and benefits than workers who aren’t union members. On average, union workers’ wages are 22% higher than their nonunion counterparts.
  • More than 75% of union workers have jobs that provide health insurance benefits, but less than half of nonunion workers do.
  • Unions help bring more working people into the middle class. In fact, in states where people don’t have union rights, workers’ incomes are lower.

In 2019, Teen Vogue featured articles on What to Know About Your Rights to Unionize and “What to Know About Your Rights as a Worker because “Regardless of age or employment position, it is important to be aware of your rights as a worker. Your career trajectory, pay, workplace safety, comfort, and overall quality of life depend on it.”

So no matter if you are 16 and applying for your first job, or a veteran workforce member trying to be more involved in your rights unions are for you. Learn more about unions at https://aflcio.org/

Resources About Unions