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Know Your Rights: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating an Intersectional Union



Forming a union means you are taking a stand against unfair practices. You are demanding that your voice is heard and that your needs are met. Unionizing your workplace gives you the power to collectively negotiate with your employer, making it much harder for them to ignore or diminish your demands. By joining a union, you are also joining a community of people who share your goals and will fight with you to get what you deserve.


Unionizing your workplace has numerous benefits. Many unions are formed to negotiate a livable wage, which can reduce the number of employees living paycheck-to-paycheck and improve one’s quality of life. Benefits, such as healthcare, retirement plans, and paid time off, can also be negotiated. They give you security and peace of mind, knowing that you and your family are taken care of.


However, It is important to build an intersectional union because according to The Bureau of Labor statistics, “Black workers remained more likely to be union members than White, Asian, or Hispanic workers,” and “Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (10.5 percent) than women (9.6 percent).” This means that women, Asian, and Hispanic employees are underrepresented, and, therefore, their unique needs are left unaddressed. According to Pride at Work, "Nearly half (48.8%) of transgender employees reported experiencing discrimination (being fired or not hired) based on their LGBTQ+ status compared to 27.8% of cisgender LGBTQ+ employees," and "Union contracts are the best legal form of protection against employment discrimination for transgender working people." However, in a Pride at Work survey, only "13% [of transgender workers] were members of a labor union or an employee association similar to a union." Unions are not only crucial for trans employees to feel safe and secure at their job but also help them get access to gender affirming care, which may be a large financial obstacle for non-union trans workers. The heterosexism, sexism, and racism present in unions today must be dismantled.


Building an intersectional union is a holistic approach to organizing and advocacy. An intersectional union recognizes that individuals have multiple identities and experiences that intersect and impact their lives, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and socio-economic status. An intersectional union also recognizes that discrimination and oppression do not occur in isolation. For example, a Black woman may face discrimination based on her gender and her race, while a low-income disabled person may face discrimination based on their ability and socio-economic status. By acknowledging and addressing these intersecting identities and experiences, an intersectional union ensures that all members are represented and that their needs are addressed. Therefore, creating an intersectional union is a vital step towards promoting a more equitable and inclusive workplace.


Despite the numerous benefits of an intersectional union, the road to unionization is far from easy. You will face opposition from your employer, who may try to intimidate or coerce you and your co-workers into abandoning your efforts. You may also encounter legal barriers and have to navigate a complex and challenging process. But there is hope. With hard work, determination, and the support of your co-workers, you can overcome these obstacles and create meaningful change.


Unionizing your workplace is not just about improving your own situation. It is about creating a better future for yourself, your co-workers, and future generations of workers. By standing up for your rights and advocating for fair treatment, you are making a difference in the world, starting with your local community. So, take that first step towards unionizing your workplace, and remember that the journey may be long, but it is also rewarding.


Step 1: Educate Yourself and Your Co-workers

When educating yourself and your co-workers about intersectional unions, it's important to start by understanding the concept of intersectionality. You can start by sharing resources and information about the concept of intersectionality and how it relates to union organizing. This can include articles, videos, podcasts, and books that explore the intersectional experiences of workers and the benefits of creating a more inclusive and diverse union.


You can also start by holding informational sessions and meetings to discuss the importance of intersectionality in union organizing. These sessions can provide a space for workers to share their experiences and perspectives, and to learn from each other about the ways in which different forms of oppression intersect and impact their lives.


When holding these sessions, it's important to create a safe and inclusive space where all voices are heard and respected. This can include setting ground rules for respectful communication. It's also important to address any concerns or questions that may arise and to provide resources and support for workers who may be struggling with discrimination or oppression in the workplace.


In addition to education, it's important to ensure that your union is actively working to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. This can involve creating policies and practices that address the specific needs of marginalized workers, such as anti-discrimination policies, diversity training, and support for workers with disabilities or language barriers.


It's also important to understand the legalities involved to ensure that you are protected. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects your right to join a union and engage in collective bargaining with your employer. This means that your employer cannot retaliate against you or your co-workers for unionizing.


One important aspect of the NLRA is the requirement that employers must remain neutral during union organizing campaigns. This means that they cannot interfere with your efforts to unionize or provide any kind of assistance or support to anti-union efforts. Employers are also required to provide access to their employees for union organizers to hold meetings and distribute information, as long as it does not interfere with the normal operations of the workplace.


The next step is to understand the process of unionizing your workplace. This typically involves collecting signatures on authorization cards, holding meetings and informational sessions, and building support for your cause. Once you have gathered enough support, which is typically around 30% to 50% of the employees, you can file a petition for an election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The board will oversee the election process and ensure that it is conducted fairly, and the election will be determined by a majority vote.


However, employers may try to intimidate or retaliate against employees who are unionizing, so it's important to know your legal rights and seek the support of a union or a legal professional.


By educating yourself and your co-workers on the legalities and requirements of union organizing, you can ensure that you know your rights. It's important to know your rights and stand up for them. Intersectional unionization can provide all workers with the protection and benefits they need and deserve, so start talking to your co-workers, share your experiences, and let them know how important this is to you.


Step 2: Build a Core Group of Supporters

Building a core, intersectional group of supporters is a crucial step when unionizing. The first step is to identify potential supporters who share the same concerns and goals. This can be achieved through networking, organizing meetings, and conducting surveys. Once a list of potential supporters is identified, it is important to reach out to them and discuss the benefits of unionizing, the challenges they face, and how a union can address those challenges.


To build a core group of supporters, it is important to make sure that the group is inclusive and diverse. This means reaching out to workers from different departments, genders, races, and backgrounds to ensure that everyone's voices are heard. Intersectionality is crucial in this process, as it recognizes that people's experiences are shaped by multiple factors, including race, gender, and socioeconomic status.


Once you have identified your core group, establish clear goals and objectives for the group. Develop a plan of action and assign tasks and responsibilities, and find tasks that match each member’s strengths and interests to ensure they are fully invested in the process. This may include organizing meetings or events, creating and distributing informational materials, or reaching out to potential supporters. It's important to keep the group motivated and engaged, so regular check-ins and updates can help maintain momentum.


It's also important to make sure everyone in the core group feels heard and included. Encourage open communication and provide opportunities for feedback and input. This can help build trust and foster a sense of ownership and commitment among your supporters.


Finally, it is important to foster a sense of community and solidarity within the group. This can be done through team-building activities, social events, and encouraging members to support each other. By building a strong, intersectional group of supporters, unionizing efforts can be more successful and sustainable.


Building a core group of supporters takes time and effort, but it's an essential step in the process of unionizing your workplace. With a committed group of individuals, you can work together to create meaningful change and improve working conditions for all employees.


Step 3: Choose a Union and Begin the Organizing Process

Choosing the right union to represent your workplace is an important step towards achieving your goals. It is important to do your research and find a union that aligns with your values and priorities. Look for unions that prioritize intersectional organizing and have a track record of fighting for the rights of marginalized workers, such as the Pride at Work, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, and Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. You can find information about different unions online or by asking for recommendations from other workers.


You can start by reaching out to union representatives and asking questions about their organization and how they can help you achieve your goals such as “What are the specific benefits of joining your union?” and “Can you provide examples of past successful negotiations for better wages and benefits for all workers?” Attend union meetings and events to get a better understanding of their values and culture. You can typically find contact information for unions on their websites or by reaching out to a local chapter.


Once you have chosen a union that you believe is the best fit for your needs, it's time to start the organizing process. Your union will help guide you through this process, providing legal and logistical support along the way.


It's important to remember that organizing a union can be a challenging process, and your employer may try to discourage or even retaliate against you and your fellow workers. However, with the support of a reputable and experienced union, you can navigate these challenges and build a strong, empowered workforce. Stay committed, stay informed, and stay united with your fellow workers. Together, you can create a workplace that values and supports its employees.


Step 4: Negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement

When negotiating the agreement, it's important to have a clear understanding of what you and your co-workers want and need from your employer. A union can help you negotiate a collective bargaining agreement by providing you with expert guidance and support. The union representatives will work with you to develop a list of demands and negotiate with your employer to achieve the best possible outcomes for you and your co-workers. This may involve compromising and finding creative solutions that meet the needs of both parties.


During the negotiations, it's important to remain focused and organized. Keep track of all the details and agreements made during the process. Make sure that all the terms and conditions of the agreement are clear and understood by both parties. Once the agreement is reached, it's crucial to ensure that it is enforced and adhered to by all parties.


Once an agreement has been reached, the union should present it to its members for ratification. This may involve holding a vote or conducting other forms of outreach to ensure that all members have a chance to review and approve the agreement.


Negotiating a collective bargaining agreement can be a daunting process, but it's worth it in the end. It's an opportunity to advocate for yourself and your fellow workers and create a more equitable workplace. With the help of a union, you can ensure that your voice is heard and everyone’s needs are met.


In conclusion, unionizing your workplace is a powerful tool for advocating for your rights and improving your working conditions. By joining a union, you gain the power to negotiate with your employer and demand fair wages, better working conditions, and benefits that provide you and your family with security. Building an intersectional union is also important in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Although the process of unionizing may be challenging, with hard work, determination, and the support of your fellow workers, you can achieve meaningful change. To get started, educate yourself and your co-workers on the legalities of union organizing, and build a core group of supporters who share your goals and are willing to help you advocate for change. Remember that unionizing your workplace is not just about improving your own situation but creating a better future for yourself, your co-workers, and future generations of workers. Don't be afraid to stand up for what you deserve. Good luck, and remember that you are not alone!


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