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How to start a union

A union, or labor union, as it is popularly known as, is an association of workers or employees who get together to improve their work conditions. A labor union is essentially a body formed to bargain with the management on issues affecting employees like salary, working conditions, and related issues. The origin of labor unions can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain. The growth of industries saw poor working conditions and labor unions, or trade unions started to protect the rights of workers.

If as an employee of an organization, you are concerned about the conditions at your workplace and want to do something about it, then you can start a union. Here’s how you can do it.

Study the laws and company rules

The first thing you need to do is to study the laws in your country and state. The laws vary from place to place and you need to understand the laws related to unions clearly. Take the help of a lawyer, if needed. Understand the laws related to starting and registering a union. Apart from local laws, you need to understand your organization’s rules. When you join an organization, you will sign a contract or receive a letter of appointment. This document has rules applicable for employees.

Study the rules and find out if the organization prohibits starting unions. Research the laws to know if an organization can stop its employees from forming a union. Only when you are clear about all legal aspects, you should move ahead.

Talk to your colleagues

One person cannot start a union; you need the support of fellow employees. Talk to your colleagues and explain why you want to start a union. Canvass support for your idea. It is advisable to do this through private meetings until you have sufficient support. Let your colleagues understand that the purpose of the union is not to disrupt work but to protect the rights of employees.

Form a managing committee

Once you get sufficient support for your idea, go ahead, and form your union. Decide on a name for the union and prepare by-laws or rules that govern your union. Form a managing committee that is responsible for managing the union’s affairs.

Enroll members and hold elections

Once your union is formed, start enrolling members. Informally communicate this to the management and then get members to register with the union. Give cards to members and hold elections. Conducting elections is important and could be mandatory as per law.

Register the union and notify your employer

You may need to register the union as per the applicable laws. Go ahead and complete the formalities of registration. Notify your employer about the union officially. Meet the top management and the HR department and explain why you have started the union. Let them know that your objective is to work for employees and not have conflicts with the management.

Bargain for employee rights

Once your union is established, bargain with the management to ensure employee rights are protected. Always ensure bargaining and any union activity (including strikes) are done in conformance with the laws. Try to get a commitment from the management on issues related to pay and work conditions.