Step 9—Make the Union “Official”
Now you and your Organizing Committee have assessed the campaign and have determined that you have a good chance of winning based on a careful and honest assessment.  The next step then is to make the union employees have formed “official” by either requesting voluntary recognition and/or filing for a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board or with another agency if the group is not covered under the NLRA.

The NLRB website can guide you through the forms you’ll need and all the steps. Election petitions can now be filed electronically. 

Union Recognition Alternatives to the NLRB Election

NLRB elections generally leave the door wide open for the employer to engage in endless delay tactics, although expedited elections are now possible under new rules.. Consider the list below for alternatives to NLRB elections as well as other means to organize new members.

Public Sector Election and/or Card Check

Community support and political leverage often are effective tools with public sector employers. In some states with a public employee relations commission, card check can be mandated with a certain level of showing of interest, thus avoiding a prolonged election process. Check out your state laws concerning this process.

Third Party Elections

Occasionally an employer may agree to hold a non-NLRB secret ballot election with public officials, community groups or clergy presiding over the process. Make sure rules and procedures are clearly negotiated and committed to writing (especially a process and definition of objectionable conduct). The advantage with this type of election is that it can, if negotiated correctly, avoid lengthy delays and employer stall tactics. Try getting a neutrality agreement as part of the deal.

Card Check/Voluntary Recognition

Often a card check by a third party agreement contains a neutrality clause. A whole campaign strategy needs to be developed usually to convince an employer a neutrality agreement/card check is in his/her best interest.

Organizing for Voluntary Recognition

The time honored take to the streets method of agitating until the employer seeks labor peace. The “Justice for Janitors” or “Hotel Workers Rising” campaigns provide large-scale examples of this organizing model. Smaller scale campaigns can also be effective if carried out properly.

Self-Determination Election

When an existing union seeks to add a group of previously unrepresented employees to its existing unit as opposed to seeking a representation election for a separate unit. Also different than an “accretion” where a “unit clarification” process occurs absent a representation election. Go to the NLRB website for further information at

Accretion or Unit Clarification

Some situations are more appropriate for a “unit clarification” to be filed with the NLRB to determine whether or not accretion principles apply, thus avoiding a representation election. Go to the NLRB website for further information at

Residual Units

Take a look at where you currently represent members. Does this worksite have a group of employees who generally have varied classifications and skills and may not fit into the current bargaining unit definition, yet are unrepresented? This often occurs in the public sector. These workers may constitute a “residual unit” and you could provide the opportunity for representation.

About Us

​The Office and Professional Employees International Union was chartered in 1945 and​, with more than ​90,000 members, we’re one of the larger unions of the AFL-CIO. OPEIU has locals ​throughout the United States and Canada.

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