What if one conversation could spark something big?

When it comes to forming a union, nobody can do it alone. After all, working as a group is what makes unions so effective. But in order to reap the benefits, you’re going to have to talk to your coworkers.

While we have faith in your social skills, there are some things you should know before approaching your peers about unionizing. That’s why we’ve compiled some helpful tips on how to broach the subject like a boss. Or rather, like a worker.

Two coworkers talking over coffee in a cafe.
Care of: Christin Hume via Unsplash

Location, location, location

The break room water cooler is a perfect spot for chit chat, but it’s not going to be the best place to quickly drum up union support. Instead, you’ll need a less-public approach when reaching out to your coworkers.

Keep the union talk to after working hours and outside the office (that includes internal communication tools, like your company email address and Slack). We don’t want to freak you out, but some managers don't look kindly on workers organizing. You can’t legally get fired for talking about teaming up, but employers can pin a firing on another issue.

Instead, grab lunch with your coworkers or send them a text after work.

Don’t slide into just anyone’s DMs

While you want to eventually reach out to as many people as possible, there are some coworkers you have to leave out of the conversation. Don’t talk to anyone in a leadership position, like managers, supervisors and directors about unionizing. Even if you think they’d support it, they can’t help you. Yeah, it’s another legal thing.

Start with a few one-on-one conversations with coworkers who you’re close to and suspect may be interested in unionizing. From there, you can put out feelers on who your work friends know that might be open to it as well. Use these connections to build interest and momentum. The more people who get on board, the more enticing it will be for coworkers on the fence. FOMO is a powerful thing.

Three coworkers sit at a table with laptops laughing
Care of: Brooke Cagle via Unsplash

How to win friends and influence your workplace

So, you’re ready to talk unions with Jim from Sales.

What do you actually say?

We’ve found it’s helpful if you spend more time listening to a coworker’s experiences than immediately leaping into why you need to unionize. For those who are unfamiliar with unions and what they can do, the whole thing can sound scary or unnecessary.

A good way to kick off the conversation is simply by asking them how their week is going and if there’s anything they’d like to change in the workplace.  

You’ll get a better read on their views, their position towards management and their job. You’ll also get valuable information on what issues your union can eventually advocate for. If you’re getting good vibes from the conversation, shift it into drive and ask them if they’d like to team up and form a union.

If it sounds like a coworker is supportive of management or anti-union, quickly change the subject to something more neutral. Remember: safety first. If we sound like an after-school special, we’re okay with that.

You don’t need to be an expert

Some of your coworkers might need more information. Rest assured, you don’t have to memorize everything there is to know about forming a union —  we already have. To prove it, we’ve assembled a Unionizing Guide that’s free and easy to access. Send it to your coworkers who have questions and are interested in learning more.

If a coworker decides unions aren’t their thing, that’s okay. Rest easy knowing your union will ultimately benefit them anyway. Caring for each other is what it’s all about!

A happier scenario is that your coworker decides they want to join you in organizing. Congratulations! Your unit is one step closer to becoming a reality.

Four industrial workers in blue shirts and yellow hats climb up a yellow staircase
Care of: sol via Unsplash

Do you want to unionize? Y/N

After putting in the work and feeling kind of like a spy, you’ve done it: A good chunk of your coworkers are excited about unionizing.

Time to make it official.

Keep in touch with your coworkers and remind them to sign their election petition card and vote “yes” to certify the union. Company leadership might try to discourage your unit, but stay the course. Your union is so close to pulling up a seat at the table and enacting meaningful change.

And that’s the power of a few good conversations.