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How to Organize

Getting Started

The IATSE believes that the best organizers are the workers themselves. At every step of the organizing process, we emphasize the active participation of the workers seeking union representation. This is essential not only to winning an election, but more importantly, to getting the contract you deserve. The first step is to talk to your co-workers. Do you share common concerns about your jobs? Is your employer unwilling to discuss or rectify your concerns? If so, you will want to gauge the interest of your co-workers in exploring organizing as a means to address your problems. If there is interest, we will send a representative to meet with as many workers as are willing to talk with us.

Forming the Inside Organizing Committee

Every successful organizing drive involves an effective organizing committee comprised of workers seeking union representation. The organizing committee helps to educate the IATSE representative about the concerns that initiated your interest as well as whatever apprehensions there are about moving forward. The committee will also disseminate information, provided by the union organizer, to the group. This back-and-forth communication is a constant part of the organizing process. It is important that the committee represent a cross-section of the workers. Each job classification and location should have at least one representative.


Workers are entitled to know how the organizing process works and what to expect during the campaign.  It is only when everyone understands the commitment involved in successful organizing that we can be confident of their support. Our representatives are fully versed in the laws governing organizing on both the state and federal levels. We will make every effort to ensure that you and your co-workers completely understand the process so that you can make a fully informed decision about moving forward. At the same time, you will educate the IATSE representative about your employer’s operation so that we can identify as clearly as possible which positions and how many workers are in the bargaining unit we’re trying to organize.

Authorization Cards

Once the organizing committee is formed and functioning and the bargaining unit is identified, we request that all workers sign Authorization Cards as an indication of their support for the union. Authorization Cards are completely confidential. Your employer will never know whether you have signed one or not. In fact, it is illegal for them to ask you if you have. If a significant majority of the workers in the bargaining unit sign authorization cards we will file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) requesting that they conduct a secret ballot election to determine whether a majority of workers want to be represented by the union in order to negotiate a contract. A simple majority is required to win the election. As an alternative, we can request that the employer voluntarily recognize the union. If the employer voluntarily agrees, then we submit the authorization cards to a neutral third party who compares them to an employee list to determine if the union has a majority. This streamlines the process.

The Election Petition

Once we have collected a majority of Authorization Cards, we file them with the NLRB. The union and the employer need to agree on several elements of the election. What is the composition of the bargaining unit? – that is, what job classifications are covered? Who is eligible to vote? – sometimes elections involve part-time workers, full-time workers or a combination. Usually a formula is applied to determine how frequently a part-time worker must be employed to be eligible to vote. We also need to agree on the place and time for the election. It usually occurs at the workplace but it can be conducted by mail. If the union and the employer can’t agree on all the elements of the election, the NLRB will conduct a hearing to explore the areas of disagreement. After the conclusion of the hearing, they will determine the terms of the election.


Once the union wins the election, the Inside Organizing Committee becomes the Bargaining Committee. In conjunction with the IATSE representative, the Bargaining Committee will draft a contract proposal to submit to the employer at the start of negotiations. The Bargaining Committee will attend all negotiation sessions with the employer. They will advise the IATSE representative how the bargaining unit would like them to respond to employer proposals and what modifications of the union’s proposal are acceptable. The Bargaining Committee will determine when there is a tentative agreement that can be submitted to the entire bargaining unit for a secret ballot ratification vote.


Once a contract has been ratified and executed, all employees covered by the agreement will be offered the opportunity to join the union as full journeyperson members, with all the rights and responsibilities of other members.