How Does Organizing Work?


The world of work is changing—and changing fast. But one thing never seems to change: Too many employers don’t treat their employees fairly.

Today, growing numbers of workers realize that if they want to gain respect and assure fairness, they need to join together to form a union.

Labor unions are changing too—and AFSCME is leading that change. AFSCME members win concrete changes in their workplaces, and they win greater dignity and respect on the job. By joining together to form an AFSCME local, new AFSCME members have won:

  • A strong voice in the workplace
  • Wage increases
  • Benefit improvements
  • Better staffing levels
  • Improved workplace safety
  • Fair grievance procedures

Choosing AFSCME is the first step to success for many public service employees: AFSCME has the best record in the nation for helping workers secure representation rights by winning representation elections and settling first contracts.

Nationally, AFSCME is 1.3 million members strong, with 26,000 employees under contract in Maryland. We work in the private and public sectors as health care workers, correctional officers, maintenance and skilled trade workers, EMS workers, school bus drivers, clerical workers, social workers, nurses and much, much more. Together, we have the strength to improve our jobs, our work and our lives.

How does organizing work?
Once a strong majority of employees commit to supporting the union, they approach the Labor Relations Board to have an election. After a majority of employees vote yes, management will be legally obligated to negotiate as equals with employees over
wages, benefits and work rules.

In the meantime, you will form a committee of your co-workers to represent you at the bargaining table, along with a professional negotiator from AFSCME. The Bargaining Committee will distribute a survey to determine the priorities of the membership for
the upcoming negotiations.

Once a tentative contract is reached between the Bargaining Committee and management, the contract will be voted on by all the union members at your workplace. If a majority vote to accept the contract, it will go into effect.

How long does that process take?
It can vary dramatically.  It depends largely on the employees who are organizing the local: on how much time they can commit to the process, and how quickly they can move through the steps necessary to organize.

The time between starting to organize and holding a successful election typically takes more than a few months and less than a year, but each campaign is unique. 

Throughout their effort, the union will provide staff to assist workers who want to organize.

Why do we pay dues and when do we start?
Dues allow workers to pool our limited resources together to fight for our interests. Generally, you do not begin paying dues until the first contract is signed. You will receive the resources and staff support of the union, for many months before you pay any dues.

The average AFSCME Council 3 member in Maryland pays less than 1% of salary for union dues—a fraction of the increases they win in wages and benefits as a result of joining AFSCME. Your dues are an investment in yourself, your family and your future.

What happens to my dues?
Your dues pay for a wide range of resources, staff, services and supplies that all exist for
one reason: to help members improve their pay, benefits and working conditions.

The following are just some of the services your dues pay for:

  • Expert negotiators to help you bargain a strong contract
  • Professional staff representatives to help you solve on-the-job problems
  • Lawyers and legal researchers for work-related legal matters, from contract language to grievance proceedings.
  • Communications professionals who will help communicate your issues to the media,
    and keep you informed of other workplace struggles throughout the state.
  • Skilled lobbyists working for your interests in Annapolis and in Washington D.C.
  • Expert researchers who will analyze your employer’s budget and find hidden
    and wasted funds to pay for your raises and other benefits.
  • Educators to train your local union leaders in how to provide you with strong,
    effective representation
  • Organizers who work to steadily increase the number of represented employees, strengthening our collective voice in all arenas where important decisions are made about the quality of working people’s lives