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Frequently Asked Questions About Forming a Union

What is a union?
A union is an organization, made up of all our co-workers, that uses our collective strength to make improvements in the workplace.

Who is SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania?
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is the largest and fastest growing union of health care workers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We are part of SEIU Healthcare which represents more than 1 million health care workers across the country.

Why do health care workers need a union?
On average, health care workers who have a union earn higher wages and have better benefits than non-union workers. But most importantly, union health care workers have a voice in the policies that affect them and their patients or residents. As workers on the front lines of health care, we know what has to change to make health care better for everyone. We have to work together to make those changes.

How do we form a union?
You form a union by uniting a majority of your co-workers and demanding that your employer recognize your union. If management refuses to recognize the union, a secret ballot election is held by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)  to certify that a majority of employees want to unionize.

Why do employers try to keep workers from forming a union?
When workers organize a union, employers fight back because they know when workers are united, they have the power to force employers to do the things they don’t want to do – like pay fair wages, improve staffing levels and treat everyone equally. During the organizing process, it is very common for employers to hire union-busting consultants, to hold mandatory meetings designed to threaten and scare employees, and engage in many other practices to divide you.

Who runs the union?
You do. It’s your union. When you form your union, you will elect representatives from every department to be the leaders of your union. You also elect the members of the negotiating committee that will represent you at the bargaining table with management. Everyone gets to vote on whether to accept a contract or not.

Will we lose what we already have?
Management will say that you will lose what we already have. That’s not true. The bargaining committee that you elect develops contract proposals based on your input and presents these proposals to management. The committee and management then negotiate a contract based on these proposals. Management is legally barred from changing any of your current working conditions until a contract is negotiated. You have the ultimate say in what you will accept in your contract. When you stand united you have the power to make great improvements.

What about union dues?
Dues in SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania are 1.8% of our gross pay, not including overtime, plus a dollar. So for every $100 we make, we pay $1.80 in dues plus a dollar – which goes into a patient and health care workers defense fund. No one pays union dues until we vote to approve our contract. Union dues are how we make the union work for us. Dues are used to negotiate contracts, communicate with and mobilize our members to make our union the strongest it can be.

If I join the union, won’t I have to go on strike?
Strikes are the strongest tool we have at our disposal, but deciding to use it is a serious decision. We will only go on strike if we vote to go on strike. We are the only ones who can decide what is important enough for us to strike.

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