Union Organizing

Union Organizing

What did you find in your research about the recent record for unions attempting to organize large bargaining units? What does this mean for the future of unions?

It should be 1 page APA formatting. Please include three scholarly resources.



  1. Why Workers Unionize

Union organizing is initiated in two ways. The first is when national unions target certain employers and send in professional organizers. This most often occurs when a unionized employer opens a nonunion plant. The second way in which union organizing is initiated is by employees who believe they would be better served with union representation.

Fossum (2012) writes, “The monopoly and voice power of unions are attractive to workers, but job content, experience, being younger, having social-democratic political beliefs, lower education, and personal income also relate to a willingness to form or join a union” (p. 164).



Another perspective on the motivations of workers to unionization can be explained in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. “Only when the lowest and most basic of the needs in this hierarchy has been relatively well satisfied will each higher need become, in turn, operative” (Sloane &Witney, 2010, p. 20). Therefore, the unsatisfied need is the primary motivator of human behavior. Once a need is satisfied, motivations may be activated by higher needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

At the lowest level in the needs hierarchy is physiological, such as food, water, clothing, and shelter. It can be presumed that if workers aren’t making enough money to support themselves and/or their families, then increased pay becomes a motivating factor for workers to unionize. If this need is met by satisfactory wages, safety becomes the next level of the needs hierarchy.

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If the workplace is dangerous or threatening, safety can become a primary motivator for workers to join a union. If safety needs are met, the next level of the hierarchy is social needs—a sense of belonging, association, and acceptance by others.

Social needs, such as the need to be part of a defined group, for example a union, in and of itself could be a motivating factor for some workers. Workers may also want acceptance and inclusion from management, rather than feeling detached and isolated, and thus, be motivated to join a union.

If social needs are met, higher-level needs such as the need for esteem (self-esteem and status) and the need for self-actualization (self-fulfillment) come into play as motivators for workers to join a union.

It’s important to note that each individual is different and that this pattern of needs is not followed by all (Sloane &Witney, 2010).

While the above is a basic description of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how these may motivate workers to join a union, research findings have suggested that,

…all employees endeavor to gratify needs and wants that are important to them because of dissatisfaction with the extent to which these needs and desires have been met…Many of these studies also support Maslow’s hierarchy for most workers in approximately the order of needs indicated by Maslow. (Sloane &Witney, 2010, p. 21)

  1. The Fundamentals of Organizing

The process of organizing is well illustrated by the following diagram.

Sequencing of Organizing Events

Figure 6.1 on Fossum p. 159

Click to Enlarge

There are complexities associated with the process that will not be covered here, as these are detailed in the textbook (e.g., recognitional picketing, the types of certification elections, the process of determining the bargaining unit, etc.). Instead, a brief introduction of organizing efforts is summarized below to provide a basic, high-level overview of the organizing process.

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The authorization card campaign marks the beginning of union organizing. Organizers attempt to collect signatures on the authorization cards. Once this process is initiated, it is difficult to keep the campaign a secret from the employer.

If the union obtains a majority vote from employees, the union can initiate the recognition request. In other words, the union may approach the employer and ask for support as the employees’ bargaining agent. The employer may support this if all evidence of a majority vote is satisfactory, but employers often deny such support.

The union may then petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a representation election. The union must provide the NLRB with cards signed by the employees of the unit it is trying to organize, and the NLRB must do its due diligence in checking these cards against a roster of eligible employees. If more than 30% of employees in the unit have signed authorization cards and the NLRB has designated an appropriate bargaining unit, the representation election can begin. If the union receives the majority of employee votes in the representation election, the NLRB certifies the unit as the employees’ bargaining agent, and thus, the employee unit becomes organized and negotiations can begin. If a majority of votes is not received, the NLRB certifies the results and union elections are barred in that unit for one year.

The process described above is often a bitter, adversarial battle between the union and the employer. Union strategies to organize include hand billing (handing out printed advertising sheets), sending letters to employees, mass recruiting, and even community action and corporate campaigns. Union representatives often claim that the union can change working conditions. This may be one advantage that the union has over the employer, in that unions can suggest the positive changes that they may bring to employees, but employers cannot communicate future benefits that would result from an organizing campaign’s failure.

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Most employers don’t allow solicitations of any kind on their premises, and this includes union solicitations. Therefore, professional organizers don’t necessarily have easy access to employees. However, employee organizers may indeed solicit other employees under Section 7 of the Taft-Hartley Act, allowing employees’ rights to form or join a union. However, such solicitations may only take place off company time and cannot interfere with production. Such activity, however, may alert the employer, and an anti-union campaign could begin.

Management campaigns may include covert investigations to uncover union activity, restriction of solicitations, opposition to a consent election to reduce union win rates, and the launch of a communication campaign painting unions in a less than positive light.

Union and management strategies are usually aggressive, and activities by both parties set the stage for a volatile relationship should the union win its campaign.


Fossum, J. (2012). Labor relations: Development, structure, process. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.


Sloane, A., &Witney, F. (2010). Labor relations. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.