Securing Union Representation
In the U.S.
An authorization card is the first step in taking workers from simply wanting a union to actually securing union representation. Individual employees sign an authorization card that indicates he or she wants to be represented by a particular union for purposes of collective bargaining.
Once the union has signed authorization cards from a majority of workers in the unit, the union or the workers can request of the employer voluntary recognition of the union. The employer may comply directly with this request, or may agree to the cards being checked by a neutral party for verification of the union’s majority status. If voluntary recognition is granted, bargaining for a contract can begin. Of course, the employer can refuse voluntary recognition, which most often is the case.
Lacking voluntary recognition, the authorization cards are used to petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a secret ballot election to determine if the union represents a majority of the employees in the unit. If the union prevails in the election, the employer is obligated to bargain with the union as the representative of the workers.
In certain instances, if the employer engages in unfair labor practices that distort the election process such as threats against workers who support the union, the NLRB may order the employer to cease and desist and rerun the election. Or if the unfair labor practices are blatant and unduly harsh to the extent a fair election is impossible, the NLRB may order the employer to bargain with the union without an election, even if the union has not achieved majority status in the unit. This last instance is, admittedly, very rare.