Frequently Asked Questions About Local Unions

What Do I Do When I'm Laid-Off?

If you are laid-off from work for any reason and are a member in good standing, you are considered eligible for work through the job referral system of the local union and do not have to engage in customary work search procedures required by the state unemployment compensation department as a condition for receiving unemployment compensation (UC) benefits. When you sign up for UC, simply state your affiliation with your local union and that you are on the union's out-of-work referral list, in order to satisfy the job search provision of the Wisconsin UC law. Of course, to be put on the out-of-work list, you must first notify your local union that you are out of work. To qualify as a member-in-good-standing, you must also be current in the payment of your dues.

How Do I Get On The Out-Of-Work List?

Getting on the out-of-work list is easy. When you get laid-off, call, email or text the union hall. Tell the local that you are out of work and want to be placed on the out-of-work list.

How Does The Referral System Work?

The local cannot discriminate on referrals. The local must refer out members based on the time and date of the call, or notification. Local unions are required to maintain a, b, and c lists, to give greater weight to workers with more than three years of work experience. Contractors are also allowed to make specific requests for individuals based on previous employment. In addition, contractors may request workers with specific work experience. Locals track members' and applicants' skills, experience and work history. For that reason, it is good to state any relevant experience whenever you call or notify the local to be placed on the out of work list.

Can A Contractor Or Member Refuse A Referral?

Generally, employers have the right to accept or reject an applicant referred by the union or to discharge for just cause an employee who has been accepted, but proves unsatisfactory, subject to the procedure contained in the basic contract.

What Is A Grievance?

Perhaps one the greatest advantage of working under a collective bargaining agreement is one that most workers will never have to use. If you are treated unjustly by your employer, cheated out of wages or benefits, coerced into working in an unsafe manner, or performing work that otherwise violates the agreement, you do not have to fight your employer alone. Officers and staff of the union are trained to respond to these and other problems that occur between workers and their employers. In addition, unions retain legal counsel to further ensure the rights of each worker are fully protected under every agreement. Even if you are not sure that a situation or circumstance qualifies as a grievance against your employer, your union representative is prepared to answer your questions and to follow-up with your employer to make sure the work you do conforms to every aspect of the agreement. Working under a collective bargaining agreement means you are never alone. If you have any questions regarding your contract please contact your local union representative.

How Do Contractors Become "Signatory"?

To be eligible to receive the wages and fringe benefits you must work for a contractor who is signed to a collective bargaining agreement. Typically, contractors become "signatory" or signed to an agreement in one of four ways: Bottom-up: this method refers to an organizing drive where a work force that is not presently represented decides that it wants to work union. They petition the national labor relations board to bring their contractor to an election. When they win the election the contractor must negotiate in good faith with the work force to reach an agreement, or the contractor may sign an existing agreement that covers the appropriate type of work. Top-down: this describes a contractor who signs an agreement without being taken to an election or directly organized by the work force. There are many reasons why contractors sign agreements without any direct or coercive action taken by the work force. Growing contractors, wanting to expand the area in which they work, may want to take advantage of union hiring halls across the state to work jobs in larger territories. Others may need the training offered through union apprentice and training programs. While, others may be moving into new markets and need to rely on experienced workers referred to them by local unions. Sub-contracting clause: many agreements contain language that requires signatory contractors to use only those sub-contractors who are signed to an agreement. This clause acts as additional leverage to get sub-contractors who are not signed to agreements, but who want the work, to become signatory. Project agreement: this type of agreement allows a contractor to sign an agreement that is only good for the life of the project.

How Are Agreements Negotiated?

All agreements are negotiated between labor and employer representatives. Generally, labor is represented by a committee made up of representatives of the local union, the district council, and/or the international union, depending on the particular jurisdiction of the agreement, i.e.; local, state or national agreements. Employers, too, may negotiate agreements independently - as individual contractors -- or as a group -- through their local or national associations. In Wisconsin, signatory employers may be signed to one or more local, state or national agreement. Members of local unions affected by an agreement, vote on the agreement, and offer their recommendation to the district council. All agreements must be voted on and approved by district council delegates. This action makes the agreement legal and protects the integrity of all agreements statewide.

What Is Craft Jurisdiction?

As is the case in all construction crafts, laborer work has a defined jurisdiction that is recognized by employers and assigned to the laborer. Jurisdiction continues to be the lifeblood of the union. In order to properly maintain the full jurisdiction granted to the laborers international union by charter from the American federation of labor in 1903, all representatives of the union, as well as its members, must be eternally vigilant in protecting our craft jurisdiction. Occasionally, other crafts infringe on the jurisdiction of the laborer. Once that practice is established and recognized in an area it is often difficult and costly to have the work returned to the laborer. When jurisdiction is in dispute, the matter is typically decided by an administrative law judge, based on supporting evidence that may range from contract language to past practice in an area. Of course the best defense of jurisdiction is a good offense. This generally means having local business representatives who learn to anticipate the work tasks before the employer makes a work assignment to another union, and who can obtain and document first or original assignment of the work. This also means having knowledgeable members in the field who recognize possible problems and make these problems known to their local union representatives. Frequently asked questions about unions

What Is The Labor Movement?

Labor unions are groups of workers organizing and taking collective action to improve their lives. The labor movement is all unions, union members and union organizations acting collectively. There are approximately 15 million workers in unions and employee associations in the United States and approximately 4.5 million union workers in Canada.

What Do Unions Do?

Unions are the principal means for workers to organize and protect their rights on the job. The union contract or “collective bargaining agreement” establishes the basic terms and conditions of work. Unions give workers a voice with employers and provide a means to gain a measure of security and dignity on the job. Most unions maintain a paid professional staff to manage their activities. Unions pursue strategies and activities that serve the interests of their members. These include representing members and negotiating with employers, recruiting new members and engaging in political action when necessary to support policies that improve working conditions for all workers.

What Is Collective Bargaining?

The simple phrase, collective bargaining, covers a wide variety of subjects and involves hundreds of thousands of union members in the process. Representatives of labor and management negotiate over wages and benefits, hours and working conditions. The settlement reached is spelled out in a written document or contract. The contract normally contains a grievance procedure to settle disputes. It is the job of the union to enforce the contract on behalf of the members. It has not been easy to establish collective bargaining as a permanent part of American life. The efforts of unions to establish the concept of collective bargaining are a little known, but very important part of American history, involving great sacrifice and bitter struggle. Historically, management took the position that because they owned the means of production, they had the sole right to determine the conditions of employment. Collective bargaining forms the cornerstone of industrial democracy.

Why Are Unions Important

Workers formed unions so that they could have some say over wages, hours, working conditions, and the many other problems that arise in the relationship between a worker and employer. Unions are important because they help set the standards for education, skill levels, wages, working conditions, and quality of life for workers. Union-negotiated wages and benefits are generally superior to what non-union workers receive. Most union contracts provide far more protections than state and federal laws. For example, in many states there is no legal right for workers to take a break. More importantly, most states follow a legal doctrine called “employment at will” and non-union workers can be fired for reasons that might be arbitrary or for no reason at all. Unions also work to establish laws improving job conditions for their members through legislation at the national, state and local level. This ultimately benefits all workers. The 8-hour workday is an example of a positive change won by unions that affects everyone.

Are Unions Still Important To Working People Today?

Unions are more important today than they ever were. It is no secret that in a global economy, the nature of work is changing and some employers resist unions. Research consistently shows that far more workers would join unions if anti-union campaigns weren’t so common. Misinformation and intimidation – including firing union supporters – are routine responses when workers try to form unions. Workers have less power when they act individually, but acting together as a group they can effect real change. Unions are the collective voice of workers. Unions are the workers’ watchdogs, using their power to ensure that worker’s rights under the law are protected. In addition to ensuring fairness and equitable treatment, many employers recognize that there are advantages to offering workers better wages and benefits. Companies concerned about long-term profitability want to maintain a supply of skilled labor and minimize turnover. The basic reason for this is simple: if unions provide a voice to workers, the number of dissatisfied workers who leave is reduced. Another valuable function of an organized workforce is that workers are able to contribute their knowledge about the job, which helps increase productivity.

Why Join A Labor Union

As a worker, you have a federally guaranteed right to form or join a union, and bargain collectively with your employer. Business agents and/or stewards are the representatives of the union who help workers deal with unfair treatment, discrimination and with other workplace issues. This helps balance the power that an employer has over individual employees. Belonging to a union gives you rights under the law that you do not have as an individual. Once you have formed a union, your employer must bargain with your union over your wages, benefits, hours and working conditions.

Union workers, on average, earn higher wages and get more benefits than workers who don't have a voice on the job with a union.