Path to a Union

Winning a Contract with the NLRB

As you may know, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently upheld federal labor protections for graduate workers. These protections legally enable graduate students at private universities to petition the NLRB for a federally recognized union election, giving us a path to a contract here at Johns Hopkins.

There are five steps to this process:

  1. Build an Organizing Committee
    • Leaders are identified and an organizing committee representing all major departments and all shifts and reflecting the racial, ethnic and gender diversity in the workforce is established. Organizing committee training begins immediately. Committee members must be prepared to work hard to educate themselves and their co-workers about the union and to warn and educate co-workers about the impending management anti-union campaign. The organizing committee must be educated about workers’ right to organize and must understand the union’s policies and principles of democracy and rank-and-file control.
  2. Identifying Issues and a Creating a Platform
    • The committee develops a program of union demands (the improvements we are organizing to achieve) and a strategy for the union election campaign. A plan for highlighting the issues program in the workplace is carried out through various organizing campaign activities.
  3. Sign-Up Majority on Union Cards
    • We ask our co-workers to join TRU and support the union program by signing membership cards. The goal is to sign-up a sizable majority. This “card campaign” should proceed quickly once begun and is necessary to hold a union election.
  4. Win the Union Election!
    • The signed cards are used (and required) to petition the state or federal labor board to hold an election. It will take the labor board at least several weeks to determine who is eligible to vote and schedule the election. The union campaign must continue and intensify during the wait. If the union wins, the employer must recognize and bargain with the union. Winning a union election not only requires a strong, diverse organizing committee and a solid issues program, but there must also be a plan to fight the employer’s anti-union campaign.
  5. Negotiate a Contract
    • The organizing campaign does not let up after an election victory. The real goal of the campaign, a union contract (the document the union and the employer negotiate and sign, covering everything from wages to how disputes will be handled), is still to be achieved. Workers must be mobilized to support the union’s contract demands (decided democratically) and pressure JHU to meet them.