What Every Nurse Needs to Know About Forming a Nursing Union

Wouldn’t it be nice to feel like you have a say at work? Wouldn’t it be great to have a platform to stand up to unsupportive managers and have a say in staffing plans? Feeling burnt out and undervalued as a nurse can happen easily in today’s healthcare arena, and many nurses are yearning for a way to stand up for themselves and their patients.

ONA union representation gives nurses that platform to speak up for what’s right at work. A nursing union gives nurses a real voice at the workplace, where nurses and employers have a legally binding agreement on salary, benefits and work environment.

But how do you get a nursing union? You know ONA representation is desperately needed at your workplace, but where do you even begin? Here’s everything a nurse needs to know about forming a nursing union.



First Contact.  Before anything else, give us a call at 614-237-5414. We have organizers on staff whose job is to lead you through this process and answer all of your questions.

After your initial call with one of our organizers, they will likely want to meet with you and other nurses who may be interested in forming a nursing union. As a team, you will begin assessing the collective level of interest in forming a nursing union at your workplace.


Building an Organizing Committee.   The next step is to build an Organizing Committee. This committee will serve as the core group of supportive nurses who will lead the campaign. This group will also be responsible for decision-making and communication leadership throughout the campaign.

The committee is ideally comprised of at least 10% of the total nursing workforce and be representative of the different units.


Building Support.   Next, your committee will form a mission statement that everyone can rally behind. This will serve as your key message throughout your campaign.

To craft this message, you and your committee members will have one-on-one conversations with others who support the nursing union. The information that is gathered from these conversations will help you form the mission statement.

Once finalized, you and your committee will share this message with your colleagues and ask others to ‘sign on’ to this statement. This is where you will begin to gauge others’ level of support.

Our organizing staff will help you spread your message, and help you field questions that others will ask.


Membership Cards.  A lot of your colleagues are signing on to the mission statement. Great! That means you’re really building the support to move to the next step: disbursing and collecting membership authorization cards.

The membership cards are required by law to prove that there’s enough interest to hold an election. The law only requires that 30% of your total nursing colleagues sign the cards. But, it’s important we have at least 65% to file and win an election.

ONA Organizers will help your Organizing Committee talk to your colleagues and collect authorization cards.


The Election.   Collecting all of those authorization cards means you’re ready for an election! And that means you’re really close to having ONA be your nursing union!  The National Labor Relations Board (or the State Employment Relations Board if your workplace is public) sets the date and time for the election.

The ballot has 2 choices: The Association or No Representative. When the votes are received and counted, a simple majority will win.


Bargaining.    Nice job! Your leadership has paid off and you’ve won the election for ONA representation! Now it’s on to bargaining your very first contract as a nurse’s union.  You and your colleagues will now need to elect a Bargaining Team for negotiations.

ONA will provide an experienced Labor Representative to lead your team through the bargaining process.

Bargaining may take a few months or up to year to complete. Once an agreement has been reached with your employer and your elected bargaining team, a contract ratification vote will occur with all of the members.  Members will either vote to ratify the new contract or vote it down.

If members ratify, you will officially have a collective bargaining agreement. If the members vote it down, then it’s back to the bargaining table to address outstanding issues.



You have a right to form a union! The National Labor Relations Act gives you these rights, and the act makes it illegal for your employer to do certain things to interfere with your rights.

You have the right to (Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act):

  • Participate in meetings to discuss joining a union
  • Distribute, read and discuss union literature (non-work areas during breaks and lunch time)
  • Wear union buttons, stickers, t-shirts and hats to show your support for the union
  • Sign an ONA membership authorization card and demand union recognition
  • Circulate and sign petitions
  • Join together in other activities to protest issues at the workplace
  • Organize other nurses to support the union, sign union cards or file grievances

It’s illegal for your employer to (Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act):

  • Fire or threaten to fire, layoff, discipline, harass, transfer or reassign an employee because of their union support
  • Favor employees who don’t support the union with promotions, hours, rule enforcements, etc.
  • Close or threaten to close your place of employment or take away benefits or privileges to discourage union activity
  • Promise nurses a pay increase, promotion, benefit or special favor if they oppose the union
  • Ask your opinion of the union


Having a nursing union is the best way to have an effective voice for yourself and your patients. A collective bargaining contract means that you and your employer have a legally binding agreement on your salary, your benefits and your work environment.

From first contact, to building nurse support, to electing ONA as your union representative – ONA is here to lead you through the process of organizing your nursing union.  And don’t forget – The National Labor Relations act gave you the right to form a nursing union AND made it illegal for your employer to target you for wanting to do so.

Interested in ONA being your nursing union? Contact us today at 614-237-5414.