How do we get a union in your workplace?

1. Set-up a union organizing committee

Once contacted, the CUPE organizing team will work closely with interested employees to develop a plan of action on how to best approach the organizing opportunity. The first step will always be to create an inside organizing committee of passionate and motivated employees who are supportive of unionization. This inside committee will work together to identify and communicate with other like-minded employees in the workplace. If this is something you would be interested in learning more about, please contact us at (


2. Start a card-signing campaign in your workplace

Once we feel that there is enough initial support, we will begin the card signing process. The card signing campaign is one of the necessary legal steps to get a union started. Signing cards (paper or electronic) is the only way we can signal to the British Columbia Labour Relations Board that we are serious about unionizing.

The goal here is to reach out and speak with as many employees as we can to find out what their concerns are, educate them about CUPE and what we can provide for them, and to gauge interest in the organizing campaign.


3. Sign-up 60 percent of the workers

The Labour Board requires that workers in the workplace sign union cards showing their support for the union in order to be certified. All cards are confidential, and the employer never finds out who signed a card. Our goal for any campaign is to have at least 60 percent of cards signed for each workplace before we file the application with the Labour Relations Board.

4. File application with the Labour Board

Once we have enough cards signed, CUPE will file the application at the Labour Board for certification of the union. The Labour Board will examine the signed cards to make sure that they are valid and determine how many employees were represented.

If 55 percent or more of the employees in the workplace have signed cards, the union will be automatically certified by the Labour Board and no further vote is required. If between 45 and 55 percent of employees sign cards, a voting step is required.

5. The vote

If the application is accepted, the Labour Relations Board must hold a secret ballot vote for workers within 5 days of the application being submitted. Everyone who is in the bargaining unit that the union applied to represent is eligible to vote (including staff on leave). Currently all certification votes are being conducted electronically by the Labour Relations Board via email.

If 50 per cent plus one-person vote “yes,” we will be officially certified, and the employees will join an existing CUPE local.


6. Bargaining a first Collective Agreement

CUPE assigns the local a Staff Representative (an employee who works for CUPE) to help negotiate the first collective agreement. CUPE also has dedicated research, communications, legal, education, and human rights staff to support our bargaining.

Members of the bargaining committee will be elected from the membership and CUPE will launch a bargaining survey to receive feedback from the new members about what their bargaining priorities are. The bargaining committee will draft proposals that members will have the opportunity to vote on before they are taken forward to the negotiation table


7. Ratification

Once bargaining has concluded, the bargaining committee will present the draft collective agreement to the membership and will hold a vote to ratify or accept the contract. Ratification votes are performed by ‘secret ballot’, so how each member votes is never known by anyone but themselves. Both the employer and the union will need to vote to ratify the agreement before it comes into effect.


8. Enforcement of the Collective Agreement

The union will support the enforcement of the collective agreement using the mechanisms (such as grievance filing) outlined in the collective agreement or contract. This will ensure accountability fairness and at your workplace.