Six Steps to Joining the Union (Federal)

Stronger Together!

Unifor has recently started a card signing campaign at your workplace, building momentum every day. You have taken the first step to establishing fairness, respect, dignity, and the means to make meaningful and lasting changes to your working conditions. We have had some questions about how the process works, so we wanted to let you know the six steps required to gain Unifor representation at work.

How a Union Drive Works

All workers in Canada have a fundamental legal right to join a union. As more workers sign their union cards, Unifor wants to give you the facts about how the unionization process works and make sure you have what you need to make an informed decision, free from any misinformation provided by your employer.

Six steps in joining the union

Step 1. Signing your card

  • You and your coworkers sign a union card to join the union. The employer will never know you have signed a card, and the process is entirely confidential. Federal labour law requires Unifor to collect $5 from each worker when they sign a membership card.

Step 2. Filing for Certification

  • Once enough workers have signed their union card, Unifor can apply to the Canada Industrial relations Board (CIRB) to initiate a vote between 35% and 50% or file an application for automatic certification with a majority of support from the bargaining unit.

Step 3. Voting for your Union

  • If a majority of workers signed a membership card and once the membership evidence has been inspected by the CIRB they can issue a certification.
  • If less than a majority but more than 35% of workers signed a membership card workers then vote by secret ballot to approve the union drive. A simple majority of 50% plus one is needed to win the vote and certify the union.

Step 4. Electing your union representatives

  • As new Unifor members, workers will be assigned to a local union that can best support your workplace. At this point, you will also begin electing your union representatives from your workplace. There are several positions workers will elect, but the first elections will be for your bargaining committee. This will be a committee of co-workers elected to steer your first contract negotiations in a direction decided by your bargaining unit members. Your newly elected union representatives will get to work immediately and have the support of Unifor resources and staff at every step.

Step 5. Bargaining your first contract

  • As previously stated, they will start bargaining your first collective agreement with management representatives after you elect your bargaining committee. Bargaining will cover wages, benefits and pensions, work scheduling and job bidding processes, grievances, holidays and vacations, etc. Once your elected bargaining committee and employer have reached a tentative agreement, all workers in the bargaining unit will vote on the deal. If workers vote to ratify, management is then legally bound to the terms of the agreement as decided. No one pays any union dues until after the deal is ratified.

Step 6. Your union

  • As a Unifor member, you are the union.
  • Workers fill positions elected within your union. Your union is there for you around the clock every day to protect your rights and ensure that management does not violate the terms of your collective agreement. Unifor National Representatives assist at every step to offer guidance, research and education that your representatives need to work on your behalf. The Collective Agreement outlines clear rules and guidelines for job selection based on seniority.


If you have any questions not addressed in this information leaflet, don't hesitate to contact your Unifor Organizer.