Frequently Asked Questions

Listed below are some of our frequently asked questions.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us.

  1. How democratic are unions?

    The whole process is open and democratic.  You decide if you want to sign an authorization card.  You decide whether to vote "yes" on joining the union.  You decide which co-workers you want on your negotiating team.  You decide what to tell your negotiators that you want in a contract.  You vote on the contract once it's negotiated. You vote on who will be your shop steward.  You vote on who will be the officers of your local.

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  2. So what does the “International” do?

    The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is located in Washington, D.C.  Their responsibilities include among others; lobbying Congress for laws that benefit workers, sending help to locals that need it and coordinating national organizing efforts.

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  3. What are union dues? What are they used for?

    Union dues are the money you pay to the union to help pay for support staff, legal costs, negotiation costs, arbitrator's fees, etc.

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  4. What’s a “local”?

    The Teamsters have a structure that includes a national body, intermediaries, and local unions.  Most decisions are made at the state and local union level.

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  5. How long do contracts last?

    Usually 3 to 5 years.

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  6. What kind of say do I get in the contract?

    Before contract talks start, the union asks you what you'd like to see in a contract.  Usually the union sends out a survey to all bargaining unit members.  Once the contract has been negotiated it's submitted to you and your co-workers for ratification.  If a majority doesn't approve of the contract, your negotiating team goes back to the drawing board.

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  7. Who negotiates your contract?

    The Teamsters and the company each choose their own negotiators.  The company's team is usually comprised of lawyers, local management and upper management officials. T he union's team consists of bargaining unit employees and expert union negotiators.

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  8. What is a “bargaining unit”?

    A bargaining unit is made up of all the employees who are eligible to vote for and be in the union.

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  9. What are shop stewards and business agents?

    A shop steward is one of your co-workers, who acts as a representative of the union in the workplace.  When there is a problem with management and you need union help, your first stop should be a visit with your shop steward.

    A Business Agent is the official of your local union who resolves any problems the shop steward cannot.

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  10. If I sign an authorization card do I have to vote yes in the election?  What if I change my mind?

    The Teamsters are committed to organizing workers who want Teamster representation.  Organizing is not about holding a vote; it is about gaining a voice in the workplace.

    When the NLRB conducts a union election, it is conducted by a secret ballot.  No one has the right to know how you voted.

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  11. How does the union work out problems with management?

    The contract spells out what the procedures are and explains how conflicts are to be resolved.  When management engages in unfair conduct or violates a provision of the contract there are steps spelled out in the contract to resolve the problem.

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  12. What do unions do?

    A union's primary objective is to secure good contracts for its members and to enforce the provisions of that contract.  The union also administers some of the contract's important benefits directly.  Often these include health plans, pensions and labor/management partnerships and trusts.

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  13. How do you organize with the Teamsters Union?

    Employees who want to join Teamsters Union Local 170 simply sign a "union authorization card."  When a majority of employees sign the cards they are forwarded, in most cases, to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  The NLRB then schedules and conducts a secret ballot election.  In some cases, when a majority of workers sign cards the company will voluntarily recognize the union.

    When the union is certified as the exclusive bargaining representative, the company is required by law to negotiate a legally binding contract covering issues such as wages, benefits and working conditions.  The laws governing public sector and the airline industry are different.

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  14. What is a union?

    A union is a group of employees who join together within a company to bargain collectively for better wages, stronger benefits and safer working conditions.

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