The National Labor Relations Act protects the right of employees to choose or reject union representation. To protect this right, the NLRB conducts secret-ballot elections among employees to determine whether they wish to be represented by a union. If a union receives a majority of the votes cast in an election, it is certified as the employees' bargaining representative and must be recognized by the employer as the exclusive bargaining agent for the employees in the relevant workgroup. Failure to bargain with the union at this point is an unfair labor practice.

I Want to Form a Union at a Non-Union Workplace

To start the process, you must file an election petition with your local NLRB office. Along with the petition, you will need to show that at least 30% of the employees support your election petition, which is usually done with authorization cards or a petition which are signed by your co-workers. An NLRB agent will then make sure that an election in your particular workgroup is appropriate and take steps to set the time, date, and place of a secret ballot election. Typically, elections are held at the earliest possible time after the petition is filed and may be in-person, by mail, or a combination of both. If the union receives a majority of the votes cast at the election, the NLRB will certify the union as your exclusive collective-bargaining representative.

In addition to NLRB-conducted elections, federal law provides employees a second path to choose a representative. You may persuade an employer to voluntarily recognize a union after showing majority support by signed authorization cards or other means. These agreements are made outside the NLRB process.  However, after voluntary recognition, the employer and/or the union should notify the Board Regional Office that voluntary recognition has been granted and the employer should post and distribute a notice to employees informing them of certain rights they have after voluntary recognition.

Questions? We’re here to help.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is a Federal agency that protects your right to join together with other employees to improve your wages and working conditions, with or without the help of a union. For assistance, please call:

  • 1-844-762-NLRB (1-844-762-6572)

Spanish assistance is available.

Learn about filing a complaint

We’ll help you decide what to do next and determine whether filing a charge or petition is the best course of action. You must file within six months of the alleged violation to take further legal action, so it is best to begin the process early.

Please note that it is illegal for your employer to fire, demote, harass, or otherwise retaliate against you for reporting an issue to the NLRB.

File with NLRB