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Unions are about workers coming together to build power

Forming a union is the best way to ensure everyone is treated fairly at work.

Across the US, union members earn better wages and benefits than workers who are not part of a union. It’s a fact: it makes a difference to have a union at work.

Why organize a union?

Nobody should have to put up with unfair treatment but standing up to management on your own can be difficult. Without a union, management can treat employees arbitrarily. When you and your co-workers come together to form a union, you can protect and improve your wages, benefits and working conditions – by negotiating a contract as a union. If there is a problem at work or improvements you want to see made, your union will have your back.

Workers in a union benefit from:

A voice at work

Unionized workers have a say about their working conditions and can negotiate improvements.

Enforceable contract

Union members have a legal contract that protects their wages, benefits and conditions at work.

Accountability

Workers in a union have access to formal procedures and resources to dispute unfair treatment.​

Collective Power

There’s strength in numbers. Unions level the playing field, providing workers with an equal voice to management.

The Union Advantage

The data proves there’s value in having a collective voice. Studies have shown that workers in a union are more likely to benefit from:

Higher Wages

It pays off to belong to a union

Better Benefits

Union jobs help build better lives

Pay Equity

Unions combat discrimination

How do I join a union?

The most important thing to know is that forming a union is a right protected under the National Labor Relations Act. Joining a union is a democratic and confidential process. 

In simple terms, there are three main steps to forming a union:

1. Get in touch

Connect with us. We will help answer your questions and put you in touch with the right union. After that, a union organizer will help you strategize next steps.

2. Build power

Together with your co-workers, form an organizing committee. The committee will take responsibility for building support and mobilizing your co-workers.

3. Vote YES!

Once a majority of your co-workers have affirmed their support, the NLRB can hold a secret ballot vote to form a union at your workplace. Vote “Yes” to form a union!

Once you’ve formed a union, you will choose your workplace leaders. They will negotiate your new contract as a union, with the improvements you want to see at work. Your new contract will spell out wages, benefits, working conditions – most importantly, you will be a part of making it happen. 

Questions? Not sure where to start? Get in touch using our contact form. You can also email organize@mlklabor.org or text 206-765-7602.

Connect with a union

There are hundreds of unions in King County – over 160 of them are affiliated with MLK Labor.

As King County’s central body of labor organizations, we are well-positioned to help you navigate the process of joining a union: we can help answer your questions, tell you more about the different unions in King County and connect you with the right union for your industry and needs.

We treat inquiries in confidence. Your employer will never know you contacted us.

Contact Form

All information you share with us is kept 100% confidential

All information you share with us is kept 100% confidential

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to questions workers often have about joining a union:

A union is an organized group of workers who unite to have a voice on the job and have a say in their working conditions. Being part of a union gives workers the right to negotiate for workplace improvements as a group with their employer, in the form of a union contract. Once a contract has been negotiated and democratically voted in by the membership, it is also a union’s role to enforce it. Unions empower workers, defend their rights and keep employers accountable.

Unions are democratic non-profit organizations with leaders elected by the membership every few years. They are governed by clear constitutions, bylaws and other rules that are accessible to and changeable by the membership at regularly held conventions or meetings.

Ultimately, unions begin with workers. There are millions of union members in the United States, who know that by standing together they can achieve greater things than on their own.

MLK Labor is the central body of labor organizations in King County, WA, representing over 160 unions and 100,000 workers in the area. We’re affiliated with the National AFL-CIO, the central labor organization in the United States.

Our mission is to unify all labor organizations in King County to build power and strength for all workers. As the local labor council, we help connect workers to resources and unions. Get in touch with us to learn more about forming a union at your workplace.

When you and your co-workers come together to form a union, you can protect and improve your wages, benefits and working conditions. Some of the benefits of forming a union include:

  • A voice at work: Unionized workers have a say about their working conditions and can negotiate improvements.
  • Enforceable contract: Union members have a legal contract that protects their wages, benefits and conditions at work.
  • Accountability: Workers in a union have access to formal procedures and resources to dispute unfair treatment.​
  • Collective power: There’s strength in numbers. Unions level the playing field, providing workers with an equal voice to management.

There is value in having a collective voice at work, and the data proves it. Studies have shown that workers in a union are more likely to benefit from:

  • higher wages (11.2% more than what nonunion workers make)
  • employer-provided health insurance (94% compared to 68%)
  • access to paid sick days (91% compared to 73%);
  • retirement benefits through private employers (82% to 48%); and
  • guaranteed pensions through private employers (54% to 8%).

The union advantage is even greater for people of color, women, immigrants, and others who have confronted workplace discrimination. A union contract provides an assurance that all workers will be treated fairly at work.

There are hundreds of unions in the King County area – over 160 of them are affiliated with MLK Labor. 

Unions vary in size and industry specialization. Connect with us so we can learn more about your situation and connect you with the right union.

The National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of employees to form a union. It is illegal to fire, threaten or discriminate against a worker for their support of a union. Unions will prosecute employers who break the law and try to interfere with your right to unionize. If you are considering organizing your workplace and are hesitant about your employer’s reaction, connect with us in confidence to strategize next steps.

The most important thing to know is that forming a union is a right protected under the National Labor Relations Act. Joining a union is a democratic and confidential process. 

In simple terms, there are three main steps to forming a union:

  1. Get in touch: Connect with us. We will help answer your questions and connect you with the right union. After that, a union organizer will help you strategize next steps.
  2. Build power: Together with your co-workers, form an organizing committee. The committee will take responsibility for building support and mobilizing your co-workers. 

  3. Vote YES!: Once a majority of your co-workers have affirmed their support, the NLRB can hold a secret ballot vote to form a union at your workplace. Vote “Yes” to form a union!

Union members have the legal right to strike but it is your collective decision to take such action. Before a strike can be called a majority of members in a workplace have to vote in favour of going on strike.

While sometimes employer demands leave workers with no other alternative, strikes are very rare. Over 98% of all contracts in the U.S. are settled without a strike.

There is no cost to join a union until you and your co-workers negotiate and vote in favor of your first union contract. It’s unlikely that any worker would vote for a contract that didn’t make paying dues worthwhile.

Once you vote in support of your new contract and start benefiting from it, your dues will be no more than a small percentage of your earnings. Due rates vary per job and union – we encourage you to get in touch with us to find out more.

Since unions are non-profit organizations, you can be sure everything you invest in your union is spent back on union members. The voice at work, rights and benefits that come with unionization are well worth the small cost associated with participating.

There are hundreds of thousands of union members in King County. There are unionized workers at Boeing, Safeway, Macy’s, the City of Seattle, the Seattle Mariners, the University of Washington, Harborview Medical Center, among many other workplaces.

There are union members in most work industries too. From private to public sector jobs, retail, industrial trades, tech, cleaning services, education – and the list goes on. No matter in what industry you work in, you and your co-workers could likely benefit from a collective voice. Connect with us in confidence to find out more and get answers to your questions.

Keep in touch

Sign up to receive MLK Labor updates and keep in touch with the labor community. Learn about campaigns we support and receive event invites. We hold periodic Union Information sessions.

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