Q: What is a labor union?
A: A labor union is a group of workers who have decided to bargain with their employer collectively. One employee alone can't always stand on an equal footing with the boss, but all employees together usually can.
Q: Who joins labor unions?
A: People from every walk of life who work for an employer - but are not managers - join unions. Union members include carpenters and custodians, doctors and doormen, engineers and electricians, schoolteachers and steelworkers, waitresses and writers.
Q: Why do workers join labor unions?
A: Workers join labor unions for many reasons.
* They may join a union to seek higher wages and better benefits: union workers usually earn more than workers who perform the same job but don't belong to a union.
* They may join a union for a voice at work: employees together can get management to listen when they have a complaint or constructive suggestion about how work is done.
* They may join a union to seek fair treatment in the workplace: a union-negotiated grievance procedure gives an employee "due process" rights in discipline proceedings.
Q: Isn't discrimination at work against the law?
A: Many kinds of discrimination at work are prohibited by law. For instance, your employer is forbidden from discriminating against workers based on race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. (For more information check out Your Rights At Work.) But not all employers obey the law - joining a union is the best way to make sure these rights are respected.
Q: What if my boss just doesn't like me?
A: New Jersey, like most states, is an "employment-at-will" state. If you are not covered by a union (or other) contract, your employer may fire you for any reason or for no reason at all, so long as it does not involve the kinds of illegal discrimination listed above.
Q: How can I join a union?
A: If you are unhappy with conditions at your workplace and want to join a union, get in touch with a union organizer. Remember, your right to join a union is protected by federal law; employers are forbidden from retaliating against workers who support joining a union. For more information - and if you wish, to contact a union organizer - check out Your Rights At Work.
Q: What is the New Jersey State AFL-CIO?
A: The New Jersey State American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations is a federation of New Jersey labor unions. Over 1 million New Jersey workers are represented by AFL-CIO unions, making the NJ State AFL-CIO the leading voice for working families in the Garden State. You may contact the NJ AFL-CIO firstname.lastname@example.org.