Frequently Asked Questions
CWA-CSD Workers United Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a union?
A: A union is a group of workers in a particular field or job who organize to have a voice in their workplace. With a union, we can gain a democratic, legally protected say in our working conditions. This means we would have a seat at the table and could bargain over things like wages, health insurance, time off, and much more.
Q. What is CWA?
A. CWA, or the Communications Workers of America, is a labor union made up of 700,000 workers in the telecommunication, media, tech, nonprofit, and other industries.
Q. Is the union an outside, third party organization?
A. No, the union is us. That means all of us as colleagues working together to improve our working conditions. We are the union, working together for ourselves, each other, and our customers.
Q. How is a union formed?
A. First, workers sign union authorization cards to demonstrate their desire to form a union. Once a majority of workers have done this, an employer can either voluntarily agree to recognize the union or force an election. The election is conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, and if over 50 percent of workers who vote, vote in favor, we win our union, and the employer is required to negotiate with us. Once we win our election, we will elect a bargaining committee of our coworkers who will represent us at the table with management. We will hold meetings and do surveys to figure out what we want to propose. The bargaining committee will go back and forth with management and negotiate a tentative agreement. Then all of the union members will be able to vote the contract up or down.
Q. What does a union give us that we can’t get by just talking with management?
A. Anything offered can be taken away, and management is never obligated to discuss working conditions with us right now. With a union not only does management have to negotiate with workers by law, but once a contract is signed and ratified, it is a legally binding document. In other words, if it’s in the contract it can’t be taken away without negotiating with us first.
Q. How much are union dues? What are they used for?
No one pays a penny in dues until we all bargain for a union contract, and not until that contract is voted on by everyone. When we have a union contract we are satisfied with, and only after we vote “yes” for that contract, then dues kick in. Dues are 1.8% of your basic pay rate. That means if our paycheck is $1000, our union dues would be $18. Dues are a way to keep the union running so we have an infrastructure to fight for better working conditions. The union is a non-profit; all the money goes back into the membership and helping the members continue to improve their working conditions.
Because the union runs on union dues and not outside funding, that means that it is accountable to members, and we decide democratically how money from dues is used.
Q. Will we have to strike?
A. We are never required to strike- strikes are extremely rare and even then only happen when we as the union members vote to do so. There are many other tactics and methods to gaining power and strikes are just one of them. 98% of first contracts are negotiated without strikes.
Q. Can I be targeted for supporting a union?
A. It is our legal right to form and join a union. This right is protected under the National Labor Relations Act. In addition, our strength is in our big numbers. There are so many of us doing this together it makes it difficult for management to single anyone out. Our strength is being public in our union support, together!
Q. How will this affect our clients?
A. When workers have a voice in the workplace and a way to make our jobs better, we do our job better. Adequate, fair compensation allows our workplace to retain skilled, experienced workers who are satisfied in their position. Our clients deserve excellent service and we can provide that when we are taken care of in our jobs.
Q. What can we expect in the coming weeks from management?
A. We certainly hope CSD lives up to our ideals and doesn’t interfere with our right to form a union. But they may try to prevent us from forming a union because they don’t want us to have more power and say in our workplace. This could look like making false claims about our union, or making threats to our job security and promises such as additional benefits. The important thing to remember is that we are the union and we decide how it runs, and forming a union means we can have a protected, collective, and powerful voice.
Q. What if I don’t have any problems with how things are? Why should I vote for a union?
A. There are always positive aspects of a job, but as we have seen, things change. What might be a benefit or job perk today might be taken away or discontinued tomorrow. As a union, we can make sure our benefits and working conditions are protected in a legally binding contract.
Q. Isn’t CSD a nonprofit? Can we still form a union?
A. Just like workers in any for-profit sector, nonprofit workers also face undesirable working conditions, and are still protected under the NLRA. Recently, more and more nonprofits have organized to not only better their workplace but for the benefit of the communities they serve. CWA already represents nonprofits like the National Audubon Society, Sunrise Movement, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Open Society Foundation, and more.
Q. Why is it important for us to wear our union bracelets and buttons?
A.Wearing our wristbands shows we are united and sticking together to make our jobs better. It’s our way to show strength.If all of us show our support we are all more protected from any anti-union activity. If we openly show we are strong and for the union – management is more likely to remain neutral. Being public for the union is our best protection!