Looking to learn more about unions? We’ve got you covered. Below are a few frequently asked questions about unions and how they work. Click on a question to show the answer.
Have a question that’s not on this list? Reach out to us at the AFT-Kansas office at 785-235-0262 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always happy to help!
What does it mean that I have a union?
What do unions do?
I heard the union has a “contract,” what does that mean?
A contract – also called a collective bargaining agreement or a memorandum of agreement – is the result of a legally-binding negotiation process between the union and management. A contract usually is in place for a few years at a time, and it outlines things like wages, insurance, retirement, overtime, workplace safety, scheduling and remote work, vacation and sick time, grievance and disciplinary procedures, and all kinds of other topics that are relevant to the job. Contracts apply to all workers in the unit, not just dues-paying union members.
Contract negotiations can sometimes take a while to complete, because both the workers and management have to agree on all parts of the agreement. After negotiations have completed, union members vote to ratify the contract. The commitment to workplace democracy is a hallmark of being in a union.
One thing to keep in mind, the ability of the union to get favorable concessions from management in contract negotiations is in direct relation to the number of dues-paying members: the strength of the union is its members.
What is a grievance?
Simply put, a grievance is any statement of dissatisfaction regarding working conditions. Is management not following the contract? Do you feel unsafe at work? Are you being treated differently from your coworkers? Are you being asked to do work that’s not part of your job? All these situations are common examples of where you can file a grievance.
The exact procedure for how grievances are resolved will differ from union to union, but your fellow union members are here to help you through that process. Some members even volunteer to become stewards, who take on extra responsibilities in representing and protecting their coworkers.
Aren’t unions bad for business though?
What about those stories where unions keep bad workers on the job?
What’s the deal with dues? I thought I was a member just because I work at a place with a union.
What does having “union representation” mean?
There are two parts to this. The first is that a union’s elected leaders are empowered to represent the entire unit in dealings with management. This covers things like contract negotiations and “meet and confer” sessions where the boss and the union work as legal equals to collaboratively solve problems. The second is that employees have the right to having a member of their union with them in any conversation with a superior that can in any way lead to that employee being disciplined or fired.