Union Authorization Card 101: All You Must Know Before Asking for Signs

Published on December 22, 2021

A union authorization card is your key to success— either indirectly, by getting the NLRB to approve secret ballots at a workplace or directly— by getting a majority of workers to sign the cards and get direct approval to form a union.

The challenge, however, lies therein exactly— getting adequate signed union authorization cards.

Previously, we covered the five steps to organize a union and also introduced the role of a union authorization card. Now, let’s focus on further details of union cards and understand them better. This blog will cover:

  • What is a union authorization card, and why your union cannot do without it.
  • Rules about getting union cards signed.
  • How long are union authorization cards valid?
  • Effective channels to get signs on e-union cards.

What is a union authorization card, and why can’t your union do without it?

A union authorization card is a form signed by an employee to indicate their interest or support to start and join a union. The card also designates the union (once formed) as the bargaining agent of said employee.


A sample union authorization card. Source: Vivian Knight/SlidePlayer.

You require at least 30% of the workforce to sign union authorization cards to get the NLRB to approve a workplace election. If you secure a minimum of 50% +1 signatures, the election step is skipped, and you are directly authorized to form the union. Thus, a union authorization card is a non-negotiable for unionizing.

In October 2015, the NLRB approved electronic union authorization cards too as a valid way of collecting signatures and worker consent to form a union. This makes your work easier and opens up multiple avenues to collect the signs. More on the effective channels to get signatures later.

What is card check?

A card check (or a majority sign-up) is the same as a union authorization card, and the process, form, nature, and conditions are the same. Essentially, a card check and a majority sign-up are synonymous with a union authorization card.

How to get a union authorization card?

If you want to unionize under established unions such as the UFCW or UMWA:

  • Download their online forms (linked above)
  • Print or forward them to the workers.

Remember that the signs only indicate a worker’s desire to join the union at this stage. Only when the union is recognized, do the workers actually become members. 

If you’re organizing to form an independent union, you must create your own authorization cards. Make sure to include the following information in them:

Must-Haves (according to the NLRB)Good-to-have
Full nameMobile number
Email ID (or social media handles) for verificationAlternate number
Telephone numberHome address (including city and zip code)
Employer’s nameEmployer’s full address
Signature and date of signingDesignation at the company
Joining date and nature of work
Shift (whether day or night) and daily work hours
Full-time, part-time or other forms of employment
Pay brackets

Read more: ​​How to Organize a Union and Other FAQs You Always Had

Rules about getting union authorization cards signed

These rules dictate your strategies for union organizing, outreach, and negotiation tactics.

  1. You need a minimum of 30% signatures from the workforce for the NLRB to approve elections.
  2. If you successfully collect even one signature above 50% of the workforce, you can get approval to form a union without elections.
  3. Moreover, suppose the employer has indulged in unfair trade practices and compromises the fairness of an election. In that case, the NLRB can order the employer to recognize a union (this too requires adequate signatures).
  4. A paper and an e-union card must contain language that explicitly shows the signer’s agreement to give representation and bargaining rights to the union.
  5. Both types of union cards must have the “Must Haves” fields in the form as stated above.
  6. For e-union authorization cards, an electronic sign captured by email exchange or a digital sign using Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is valid. You must send an acknowledgment or confirmation immediately to the signer.
  7. Unions must submit an explanation to the NLRB detailing how they obtained the e-signs (e.g., via email and web forms). Get more information on these declarations here.
  8. Suppose the union and the employer fail to reach the first labor contract within 120 of the first day of bargaining. In that case, the EFCA can take away the company’s as well as the union’s rights to agree or not agree upon the negotiations.

If you are a union organizer, the following rights matter to you too. They will save you from accusations of coercion, unfair practices, and lawsuits. Read on to stay safe.

Workers hold a right to

  1. Refuse to sign a union authorization card 
  2. Revoke an authorization card they may have signed previously. 
  3. Circulate, sign and advocate petitions against monopoly union representation
  4. If a worker signs a union card, it does not equate to their vote to form a union. They have simply shown a desire to form a union at this stage. They may vote otherwise in the elections if they so choose. 
  5. Workers have the right to remain anonymous. That means their sign on the union authorization card must remain confidential, and the information stays between the union organization and the signer. Unions must never share the signed cards or confirm details of the signer with the employer or their co-workers.

Read more: A Look at the Recent Trends in Union Membership.

How long are union authorization cards valid?

The validity of a signed authorization card is one year

Effective channels to get signs on e-union cards

The distribution for a paper union authorization card is pretty straightforward— they are distributed either by workers or union representatives in a workplace. However, e-union cards provide new possibilities for distribution. Here are five effective methods you can use to ease, diversify and broaden your union authorization card distributions. 

Text broadcasts

Text broadcasts can deliver your message to a large group simultaneously. They are valuable tools when you are confident that your contacts will sign the union card— that they are nurtured and enthusiastic enough to do so.

A text broadcast system, like CallHub, provides the following benefits:

  • Personalization with merge tags (e.g., {first_name}) and custom fields (e.g., {work designation}).
  • List segmentation— so you target only a certain section of your contact list.
  • Auto-replies to designated keywords.
  • Scheduling of the campaign so you can build it ahead of time and distribute the initial message only when appropriate.
  • MMS broadcast options to add media files such as images and videos to increase engagement rates.

Check out our text broadcasting tool here: Mass Text Messaging Service for Personalized Outreach Campaigns.

Here is an example of an e-union card distributed via text broadcasts:


Shorten and brand your links to know exactly who engaged with them!

CallHub offers an in-house link shortener and tracker that saves you character space while also empowering campaign managers to track clicks on the links. With this feature, you can:

  1. Brand a URL with your union’s name, use case, or call-to-action.
  2. Add merge tags to personalize the links for each member.
  3. Track the number of unique and total clicks.
  4. Track % of clicks.
  5. Track who opened the link(s).

Learn more about the feature here: Measure engagement on text messages.

Peer-to-Peer texting

Peer-to-peer (P2P) texting enables unions to have personal conversations with members at scale. The initial message goes to the contact list as a broadcast, typically with an open-ended question or a prompt to reply. Agents start having conversations with members who respond either with pre-saved drafts or by typing the message themselves.

Functionalities like merge tags and the history of the member on the dashboard enable agents to have full-fledged conversations. Hence, P2P texting is best used when you are still nurturing workers to sign your union authorization cards. 

When the time feels right, agents can send the form link and guide the member if they stumble.

Learn more: Engage people in meaningful one-to-one conversations over text.


Like text broadcasts, emails too, work marvelously in getting e-union cards signed. They are an especially valuable tool in your kit because emails come under the “must-have” fields in the form. While texts give you a much higher open and response rate, email IDs would be helpful for contacts who haven’t provided their mobile numbers to you. An email also implies that the person has access to the internet— unlike texts, which contacts can receive even without internet connectivity. 

Social media

Social media is now the norm— marketing, outreach, and communications strategies are deemed incomplete and incompetent without social media presence. This is precisely why you too must leverage it to raise awareness about union formation or recognition.

Social media advertising can filter accounts by geography, demographics, employment status, and even related searches. However, it still poses the threat of getting the cards signed by people not authorized or not relevant to do so. Follow these steps to avoid that:

  • Mark strict targeting rules to filter out large numbers of irrelevant accounts. Better yet, publish private posts in the target workers’ groups.
  • Screen people who have engaged with your post and check who is relevant to your card check drive. Send direct messages with additional information to them.
  • If your target audience is yet to engage with posts, send them a direct message informing them about your drives and the benefits of joining your union. 

Web forms

Web forms are a must irrespective of which distribution channels you use. Texts, email links, and social media posts will all direct to the web form. This is where you collect the electronic union authorization signatures. 

But, you can also use web forms in your marketing strategies. Publish your URL (that leads to the authorization card landing page rather than the home page) across your marketing channels and get members directly to the web form. Please note that you may have to run a verification drive to filter out invalid records before submitting them to the NLRB.


We hope that this post gave you all the information you needed to start a union authorization card drive. However, to actually get workers to sign is a different game altogether. You need practical and effective strategies to attract, engage, nurture and drive workers to join your union. 

This guide promises to help: Your guide on how to increase union memberships in 8 ways.

Feature image source: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash.