Start a Union

Joining with your colleagues in a union at your workplace offers many benefits. On the job, your union brings together the collective strength of you and your co-workers to insure meaningful negotiations with management for an equitable contract. Negotiations are not limited to only wages and salaries, but can also include staffing and overtime, safety and health, cost of living raises, provisions for continuing education and professional development, adequate pensions, vacations, equitable promotion systems and transfer policies, and a workable grievance system. Through your union, you and your co-workers oversee carrying out the provisions of the contract.


The American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) is the umbrella organization for 57 U.S. labor unions representing 12 million workers. The AFL-CIO recommends the following steps for starting a union:


STEP ONE: Know Your Rights

Federal and state laws guarantee the right to form unions. Eligible employees have the right to express their views on unions, to talk with their co-workers about their interest in forming a union, to wear union buttons and to attend union meetings. (Supervisors and a few other types of employees customarily are excluded from coverage.)


Despite these laws, many employers strongly resist their employees’ efforts to gain a voice at work through unionization. So, before you start talking union where you work, get in touch with a union that will help you organize.


STEP TWO: Find out Which Union Is Right for You

To form a union you will need hands-on help from the union you are seeking to join. If you do not already know which union is most able to help you, find can out more about the unions that represent library workers by visiting their websites. Many of these websites enable you to make an organizing inquiry through the website that will put you in touch with a person who can answer your questions.


AFL-CIO unions that represent librarians and library workers include:


  • American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)
  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
  • Communications Workers of America (CWA)
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)
  • International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE)
  • Office and Professional Employees Union (OPEIU)
  • Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU)
  • United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)
  • United Steelworkers (USW)


Non-AFL-CIO Union that represents librarians and library workers:


  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU)


In communities across the country, the AFL-CIO has local and state councils where unions come together to work toward common goals. Staff members at these offices can put you in touch with a local union that is right for you. Visit the website of your state federation of labor or central labor council for more information.