We Googled “how to start a union” so you don’t have to | Pittsburgh City Paper

We Googled “how to start a union” so you don’t have to

click to enlarge A person holds up a flag that says "organize" and "union" in front of tall city buildings
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
A union flag is held in the air during Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania's union rally in Downtown Pittsburgh on Tue., July 26, 2022.

Your right to unionize is protected by federal law. The National Labor Relations Act guarantees your legal right to join or form a union without your employer's interference, restraint, or coercion, and to engage in collective bargaining, which is when a committee of workers negotiates on behalf of the whole group.

In most workplaces (see NLRB.gov for more on exceptions), a union is formed if a majority of employees agree to unite. Based on our survey of union websites and how-to guides, this is generally how that process works. WikiHow offers a useful guide that goes into greater detail.



1. Talk to your coworkers about working conditions, wages, and benefits to see if others want to improve job conditions.

2. Talk to a union representative. It’s possible to form an independent union comprised of just you and your coworkers, but many people suggest contacting an existing union for support since they often have resources (like experienced organizers) to help workers trying to unionize. It might take a bit of research to determine which union to reach out to. Uniontrack.com has a blog post with more information about navigating that decision.

3. If a majority of employees decide to unionize and communicate this to management, their employer may choose to recognize the union and start contract negotiations. But if your management refuses to voluntarily recognize the union, then you’ll have to have an election through the National Labor Relations Board.

4. To get an NLRB election, you need to submit a petition with the signatures of at least 30% of all eligible employees. If the majority of those who vote in the election vote “yes,” the NLRB will certify your union as a collective bargaining unit, with which your employer is legally required to engage in good-faith negotiations.

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