How to Join

Join a union through the Manitoba Federation of LabourWe know that joining a union is a big step for you and your co-workers — and that you want to know what's going to happen in each stage of the process. So, here's a quick look at the process involved, showing the steps you'll be taking and those that your union will be following on your behalf.

Simply click each topic to reveal more.


First of all: What exactly is a union?

Unions represent a united group of employees during contract negotiations with the employer and then make sure that contract is lived up to, including representing individual employees on workplace issues.

A trade union may be a local of a provincial, national or international union — or it may be an independent organization that represents the employees of only one plant or business.

Any group of workers can form their own union by drafting a constitution and bylaws, signing up members, electing officers and filing with the Manitoba Labour Board to become a union.

These days, however, most workers who are thinking about forming a union do so through an established union — it just makes the process easier and gives the workers more clout right from the start.

Getting started: Show your interest.

Your starting point is going to be to demonstrate to the Manitoba Labour Board that a group of workers is interested in obtaining the benefits of union membership.

This is generally done by having the workers sign a union membership application card.

The cards signed by you and your colleagues are collected.

We understand this is a tough stage because your name is "on record". But your confidentiality is protected.

At this stage, all the cards are collected by the union you're looking to join and then, of course, double-checked by their lawyers.

After that, the cards are presented to the Manitoba Labour Board as proof of support, before being returned to the union's lawyer office.

The cards will never go to your employer; management never sees them OR a list of who signed them.

How the Manitoba Labour Board decides: There are a couple of key numbers here.

If between 40 and 65 per cent of the workers in the proposed bargaining unit sign application cards, the Labour Board will hold a secret ballot vote to determine the wishes of the majority of people in that workplace.

At this point, the Labour Board will notify your employer about the application — in fact, your employer will receive a notice and copy of a sample ballot which they must post it in an open place like your lunchroom, so that all employees are aware of the upcoming vote. But remember — in all this, your employer will never know who signed a card.

Vote time! Usually within 10 days of the Labour Board notifying the employer.

You'll be voting at your workplace.

And it's the Labour Board — not the union or your employer — who will carry out the vote. It is a secret ballot, just like in a government election, and no one will ever know how you voted.

The results come in. But what do they mean?

Union certification will be granted if 50% + 1 of the workers mark their ballot in favour of union membership. Oh, and just a side note: Earlier on, if 65 per cent or more of the workers in the proposed bargaining unit signed union membership application cards, the Labour Board can automatically certify the union and a vote is not required.

The groundrules for the process. What employers and unions can and can't do.

The choice to form a union is up to the workers alone. The Labour Relations Act prohibits employers from doing certain things which will interfere with the rights of employees to freely choose whether to form a union. These actions are called unfair labour practices.

Employers cannot:

  • make it a condition of employment that you do not join a union
  • fire you if you are a member of a union or trying to organize a union
  • contribute financial or other support to a union
  • participate in or interfere with the formation of a union, it is up to the employees to decide whether or not to form a union
  • use coercion, intimidation, threats, promises or undue influence to interfere with employees unionizing

Some examples of other things employers cannot do are:

  • promise employees a pay increase, better working conditions, additional benefits or special favours if they stay out of the union
  • threaten to fire or reduce the wages of people who support the union
  • threaten to close or move the company or drastically change operations if the union is voted in
  • spy on workers attending union meetings
  • tell employees that the company will refuse to bargain with a union if it is certified
  • intentionally assign the worst jobs to union supporters
  • threaten or discipline workers for talking to other employees or getting them to sign union cards during non-working times, including breaks
  • transfer employees who support the union to other worksites to disrupt the union drive
  • ask workers how they intend to vote in a union certification vote
  • ask employees about union meetings or who they know have signed union cards
  • urge loyal employees to persuade other employees not to support the union
  • allow the production of anti-union literature using company equipment

Likewise, there are rules governing what a union can and cannot do. A union cannot:

  • organize on the employer's premises during an employee's working hours without the consent of the employer
  • use coercion, intimidation, threats, promises or undue influence to encourage trade union membership
  • interfere with the performance of work because certain employees are not members of a particular trade union

In addition, once a union applies for certification, the conditions of employment are frozen. This is done by the Board because employers will often try to make conditions better at a workplace, by raising wages for example, in an attempt to convince employees to vote against forming a union.


For more information about forming a union or with help in finding the right union to help you, just send us an email. And also see our Links section, where you'll find a list of websites for our affiliate unions — we invite you to take a look through them to see which might be a good fit for your workplace.

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