How to Recruit Memberships in Labor Unions


Recruiting efforts play a vital role in the success and sustainability of labor unions, and a deeper understanding of labor union recruiting techniques can give your organization’s membership drives a distinct advantage. Modern recruiting efforts require tact and patience with an attention to detail and must be performed within the limits of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) mandates.

The Approach

Develop a plan for approaching candidates that leaves an impression of compassion, competence and honesty; first impressions are vitally important in any recruiting effort. Remember that everything you say or do during recruiting efforts directly represents the union as a whole.

Begin conversations by getting to know the employee. According to, asking if a worker has heard of your union’s recruiting efforts or mentioning issues on your union’s primary agenda are good ways to begin a conversation. Learn about the potential member’s values and unmet needs early in the conversation, and ask about the employee’s relationship with the company.

Leave an impression that your union can provide a remedy for the member’s problems, but do not make any explicit promises. Never inflate the truth when speaking with employees; honesty is the best way to engender trust.

The Pitch

Do not be pushy in your conversations with potential members. Your recruiting pitch should sound confident, but should not pressure workers into making quick decisions.

Use inclusive language, such as “our union” rather than “the union” to make the organization feel more familiar. Keep in mind that workers will be more receptive to people who they know and trust when evaluating union membership. Approach candidates with someone they know or have worked with to make them feel more comfortable and speed the trust-building process.

Focus on the unique benefits offered to members of your union. Use your knowledge of the candidate’s values and needs to highlight specific benefits that will have a maximum impact. If, for example, the potential member has mentioned a concern over a lack of additional job training, you might point out the fact that your union offers training courses on a regular basis and a solid plan for advancement. If the potential member communicates a desire for more holiday and vacation time, point out the fact that members of your union receive more paid-leave time than non-union employees, if that is the case for your specific organization.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not overlook minority groups during your recruiting efforts. According to, labor union recruiting efforts are beginning to target immigrant workers, who have traditionally been shunned by organized labor, as an attempt to revitalize falling union membership rates. Despite legal and social difficulties in attracting certain immigrant workers, union recruiters have found that many immigrants possess a strong desire to stand up for their rights and protect their employment status. These traits are ideal for potential union members, and may be a glimpse into the future makeup of labor unions.

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