Professional and Technical Employees (PTE) Local 17
Building our careers, building our communities

Want to learn more about joining or forming a union at work?


Why join a union?

As professionals, we play integral roles in mapping the future of our communities. It only makes sense that we also chart the future of our professional lives. A contract guarantees your wages, benefits, and other conditions of the job. PTE Local 17 members have direct access to resources that allow them to negotiate their own contracts and be involved in public policy to achieve their professional goals. As part of a union, you and your colleagues will have the ability to work collectively to improve your workplace and your lives.  

The reasons people organize and become part of a union can differ from individual perspectives, but there is always a common thread. Union members want a voice in important decisions at work that affect their lives. 

How do public employees form a union?

A strong majority of workers must sign union authorization cards seeking union representation with PTE Local 17.  The cards can be used for union recognition to accrete a group of workers (join an existing contract) or, if necessary, to obtain a secret ballot election, conducted by the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) in Washington or the Employment Relations Board (ERB) in Orgeon. The signed union authorization cards are confidential and management does not see the cards. 

Most workers in the private sector follow the process through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in order to organize and form a union. Public employees have additional rights, above and beyond what the NLRB provides, to organize a union.

Do workers have the right to engage in organizing activities in the workplace?

Yes. Workers, both in the public and private sectors have the legal right to organize a union at work.  They have the right to engage in organizing activity and have protections under the law while in the process of organizing their union. Under Washington and Oregon state bargaining laws, it is illegal for management to threaten, harass, or discriminate against anyone for union activity.

What types of organizing activities are legally acceptable for workers to do?

  • Attend union meetings or informational meetings about joining or forming a union
  • Read, discuss and hand-out information about the union (Preferably during non-work areas, and non-work hours.  However, if workers can discuss other non-work related topics during work time then union-talk is also permitted.)
  • Sign a union card asking your employer to recognize and negotiate with you and your colleagues as a union.
  • Sign a petition, file complaints, or engage in other collective activity to improve wages, hours, or other issues at work.
  • Wear union buttons, T-shirts, stickers or other union items (As long as workers are allowed to wear other non-work related items, for example a Seahawks button.)
  • Engage and ask others to sign union cards and be involved in organizing or joining a union.

Is there an initiation fee for newly organized members?  What about dues?

The is no initiation fee for newly organized members. Dues are .0085 of your gross earnings. PTE Local 17 has one of the lowest dues rates in the Northwest and dues can only be raised by a vote of all members. Local 17 is a non-profit organization; all monies and budgets are overseen democratically by members and approved by members.

What about strikes?

Strikes are rare and (nationally) over 98% of contracts are settled without a strike. Local 17 has never been on strike, and plans on continuing winning strong contracts without any threat of strike. In any case, it would be the union members who decide by a majority vote.

Will being in a union really make a difference for me at work?

Yes! As a union member you will have more rights at work and the ability to improve your workplace, and your quality of life outside of work. A contract gives you job security, more financial peace of mind with guaranteed wage increases and benefits, and most importantly the ability to be a part of important decisions. Without a union, management can make changes as they see fit. Being in a union gives employees decision-making power, the opportunity to address issues and get real results, and a direct approach to improve their careers.