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Authorization Card FAQs

What is a union authorization card?

A union authorization card/petition/online form is a legal document that can give a union the exclusive right to speak and act on your behalf with regard to wages, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment. You do not have to sign a union authorization document to get more information or to vote in an election if there were one. You should carefully read anything you are considering signing and not sign a union authorization card/petition/online form unless you are sure you want to be represented by a union.

What do union authorization documents look like?

Authorization documents can take many forms and generally look harmless. Hard copy cards may resemble a magazine subscription renewal card. Petitions may look like a normal piece of paper often with very small writing outlining the legal obligations that come with signing. Some authorization documents are simply online forms that ask you to click on “I agree.”

Regardless of their appearance, however, a signed authorization card is a legal power of attorney that authorizes a union to act as the collective bargaining agent for you and other associates in negotiations with the employer. The documents also provide the union with personal information, including a home address and telephone number so the union representatives can contact you or visit you at home. The card may ask what department you work in and the type of work you perform. The NLRB requires only a signature and date on authorization cards; it is the union that wants the additional information about you that is requested on a card.

Why is an associate’s signature so important to the union?

Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), if the union obtains signatures from 30 percent of the associates in a potential bargaining unit (employee group), it can file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a secret ballot election in which associates vote to determine if they want to be unionized. If the union collects signatures from more than 50 percent of those in a potential bargaining unit, it could demand that Penrose-St. Francis Health Services recognize the union as the associates’ representative without holding a secret ballot election. If this were to happen, Penrose-St. Francis Health Services would exercise its legal right to reject this demand, which would require the union to file a petition with the NLRB to hold a secret ballot election.

How do union organizers get associates’ signatures on cards?

Signatures on union authorization documents can be gathered in a number of ways including:

  • Going to your home and asking to come in and speak with you
  • Online and through texts and emails
  • Waiting for you as you leave work
  • Approaching you and other associates in Penrose-St. Francis Health Services facilities while at work, in the cafeteria, break areas or in the parking garage
  • Through meetings purported to offer professional education credits
  • Through sign-in sheets at informational meetings
  • Through co-workers who support the union
  • Through flyers sent to your home with cards attached

What rights do associates have if they don’t want to sign a union authorization document?

You have the right not to sign an authorization card, petition or online form and to not be pressured or harassed by any union organizer or supporter. If you feel you are being pressured or harassed to sign a union document, you may tell the organizer you are not interested and to leave you alone. You can also report this to your manager or Human Resources.

Does signing a card guarantee better wages, benefits and working conditions?

Signing a union authorization card, petition or online form does not guarantee anything. If a union were to be voted in, the only thing it can do is negotiate on behalf of those it represents. In contract negotiations, you could end up with more, the same or less than you currently have. No one can predict the outcome of union contract negotiations.

If an associate signs a union authorization card and changes his or her mind later, can they get it back?

An associate who signs a card and then later changes his or her mind has every right to ask for the card back, and to rescind their authorization of union representation by sending a letter via certified mail to the union’s local office. It is also a good idea to send a copy to the National Labor Relations Board regional office as well, so that they know that the associate has revoked the authorization and requested that the card be returned. An associate also can attempt to revoke the card by asking the person the card was given to, to return it.

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Organizing Tactics

Union Claim: “By signing this document, we’ll be able to stop all of the changes around here."

Fact: Unions make numerous promises but there are no guarantees. Any change would have to be negotiated with and agreed to by the employer. In contract negotiations, you could end up with the same, more, or less than you currently have.

Union Claim: “If you fill out this card/petition/online form we can send you more information about the union and what we can do for you.”

Fact: You can get more information about unions without signing a union authorization card/petition/online form. Information is available from your manager, Human Resources, and on the Internet. Information from the union should also be available without having to sign a legally binding document.

Union Claim: “We just need your signature to show the union there is enough interest to talk to us about unionizing.”

Fact: Signing a union authorization card/petition/online form isn’t about talking to the union. Your signature, and that of other associates, may be giving the union the ability to file a petition for election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) if they collect enough signatures. Read the small print and do not sign a card if you are not sure that you want a union to represent you.

Union Claim: “You need to sign a card so you can vote if there’s an election.”

Fact: You don’t need to sign a union authorization card/petition/online form to vote in an election if there is one. Only the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has the authority to determine which associates are part of the eligible bargaining unit and therefore able to vote in any election that may occur.

Union Claim: “Try the union for a while. If you don’t like it, we’ll leave.”

Fact: It’s not that easy. Removing a union is a very difficult process once it is in place. Once the union is voted in, they are in place for a one-year minimum even without a contract. After the first year, or after the expiration of the first contract (or three years, whichever is sooner), if associates want to get the union out, they would have to gather enough signatures to file a decertification petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Associates would be responsible for initiating and organizing this effort on their own and, according to the law, Penrose-St. Francis Health Services could not assist.

Union Claim: “You should sign…everyone has but you.”

Fact: If everyone else had signed, the organizer wouldn’t need your signature. He or she would already have enough signatures to petition the NLRB for an election or to approach the organization for voluntary recognition. The decision to sign – or not – is a personal one and should be based strictly on your own desire to be represented by a union, not on what the union says other associates have done.