Frequently Asked Questions
What is this?
Coworker.org allows you to create your own campaign for changes in the workplace, with the technology you need at your fingertips.
The changes you seek can be big or small, heroic or ordinary. If you have an idea, we offer this platform to help you turn that idea into a reality.
What can I run a campaign on?
What have you noticed that needs fixing in your workplace? Where do you see an opportunity for positive change? Your campaign need not be limited to particular issues or locations. Your audience can be global or local.
When starting a campaign the most important step is to get the ball rolling – don’t worry about getting everything 100% right. Even experienced, professional campaigners make mistakes and often change tack as things develop. You don’t need to be an expert to launch a campaign in your workplace, you just need to be willing to learn new things along the way.
What can’t I campaign on?
We expect we’ll probably see campaigns we don’t agree with, campaigns that might seem a bit random and or just plain kooky. That’s fine with us, as long as it’s not defamatory, discriminatory, illegal — you get the idea.
It comes down to this: does your campaign promote or incite violence? Does it promote bullying, or advocate discrimination based on someone’s gender, sex, religion, ethnicity, nationality or sexual orientation? Is it defamatory? No? Excellent. We’re all good.
We reserve the right to use our judgment and take something down if it crosses a line of common decency, so take responsibility for your campaign. For more information, we recommend reading our Terms of Service.
Who controls the data on the site?
While you are able to email your supporters through the website, privacy laws prevent us from sharing your supporters’ email addresses with you. The data collected on and through the site will remain our property.
If you are working with a Coworker.org partner organization, we can add an “opt-in” box or opt-in disclaimer language that allows petition signers to join your email list. Supporters who “opt-in” give us permission to share their email address with your organization.
Besides starting a petition, what else can I do in my campaign?
On Coworker.org you can start a petition, share it with coworkers and communicate further with your supporters via email.
Coworker.org also helps you take your campaign to the street. For instance, you can download a blank copy of your petition, collect signatures in person and then enter your data easily into the system. You can also download a finished copy of your petition to print and deliver to decision-makers.
You can access all of these features from the manage page
This is a tool that allows anyone, anywhere to start a campaign to change their workplace.
Can I cancel my petition at any time?
How will signing petitions make a difference?
Petitions provide a useful snapshot of the level of public support for an issue and put forward a list of people who all share a common commitment or concern. And they don’t always need a big number to make a big impact – think about a local issue where a petition of 20 coworkers and customers at a sandwich shop would require the store’s owner to sit up and take notice.
Petitions can be the catalyst for conversations that change how people think about an issue. They’re also a great tool for surfacing the best ideas for improving a workplace. If you’re an employee who’s targeting your employer in a petition, it’s important that you reach out to coworkers to sign and support your petition. Why? Because there is strength in numbers! Reach out to your colleagues by any means available to you — in person, on the phone, on Facebook or email. Once you’ve got signatures on your petition, it’s important to deliver your petition to your target in-person. Many people choose to contact local reporters to cover the petition delivery. A local news report of your petition can often lead to success.
I no longer wish to receive updates on a campaign I signed up to. How do I unsubscribe?
It’s sad to see you go, but you can unsubscribe by clicking the ‘unsubscribe’ link in site emails you receive.
I CREATED MY PETITION. WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN NEXT?
Congratulations! This is a great first step to changing your workplace.
One of the most important things you can do is document everything that happens in the campaign. Maybe even keep a daily log or journal, with dates and times, about what happens. You’ll want to have these notes so that you can refer back to them if you need to.
Your employer will probably ask to have a meeting about the petition. That’s okay – you have the right to talk to anyone at work about conditions you’d like to improve. If you would feel better bringing a coworker who supports the campaign to the meeting, you should plan to do that (but be aware that you don’t have the right to demand that a coworker be present). You can prepare by getting clear on your protections under the law, keeping track of who has signed the petition to support you and being clear about your request in the meeting.
Some of your coworkers will support you, some may not. What’s important is that you have some fellow employees who agree with you and are willing to stand with you on this issue.
The media might call you to learn about your story. Speak from the heart, talk about the conditions you’d like to improve and be positive about your campaign.
Am I going to get fired for this?
Anyone who starts a campaign on Coworker.org risks getting fired or facing some sort of retaliation from a supervisor. However, you very likely have the legal right to ask for improvements in your workplace, so long as you do so with or on behalf of your coworkers, as well as yourself.
It’s against the law in the United States to fire or retaliate against an employee who joins with his or her coworkers to improve their working conditions. This is called protected concerted activity, the right to engage in which is guaranteed to most private sector employees under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). (Not protected by the NLRA, however, are federal, state, and local government employees, supervisors, agricultural workers, independent contractors, many employees involved in the railroad and airline business, and employees of many small businesses, among others.)
Make sure your campaign meets the following basic criteria:
• There are two or more workers addressing the problem together
• You are not using your work time to talk about the issue
• It is about a positive change that will improve conditions for all employees
• Any critical statements made about your employer or its supervisors are related to how you and your coworkers are treated at work
• You do not use your work computer or work email address (i.e., the company’s internet domain name) to communicate about your petition
• All of the statements made about your employer are true
Below we have a guide to what you should do if you face retaliation from your employer. (Note: This FAQ is based on U.S. law and may not apply to petition creators in other countries.)
If you want to learn more about protected concerted activity, the National Labor Relations Board, which enforces the NLRA, features an excellent guide on its website: http://nlrb.gov/concerted-activity
Why is it so important that I get my coworkers to sign?
Getting your coworkers to sign your petition increases your protection under the law. Per Section 7 (referenced above) this kind of workplace activity is protected so long as it is directed at improving the working conditions of more than one employee. But while the legal protection is important, it’s also important to have the support of your coworkers for the overall success of your campaign. A good Coworker.org campaign starts with a conversation – or a few conversations – about a problem that you’re all facing at work. You will want to be sure that the problem you’re trying to solve, and the solution you’re proposing, is something that you’ll all be willing to work toward together.
I live in a Right to Work state. Am I still protected?
You sure are – employees in Right to Work states enjoy the same Section 7 Protections as anyone else.
My coworker started this petition and wants me to join her. I agree that we need a change, but I’m afraid I’ll get fired.
It can be scary to support a coworker’s petition, but that is often the only way employees can win change at work. Each time another employee supports a campaign, it becomes harder for an employer to dismiss the petition’s demands.
Furthermore, firing an employee who is covered by the NLRA for signing a Coworker.org petition to improve conditions at work is illegal.
Section 8(a)(3) of the NLRA states that an employer cannot retaliate — either with dismissal or other disciplinary action — against employees for exercising their legal right to attempt to improve conditions in the workplace.
You therefore have the legal right to sign your co-worker’s Coworker.org petition to improve things at work, at least so long as you are covered by the NLRA. If you encounter retaliation of any kind, the first step is to thoroughly document what’s happened. See questions on firing and retaliation for additional information.
Can I create a petition anonymously?
You could create a petition with a fake account and pseudonym. However, we at Coworker.org believe that a key ingredient for the success you will have through your petition efforts will be the willingness of you and your coworkers to stand up for yourselves by stating your demands for workplace improvements openly, without fear or shame. For this reason, we do not encourage the use of fake accounts or pseudonyms.
My employer is offering a deal. It’s not everything we asked for, but it’s more than we have. What should we do?
This is your petition — and it’s ultimately your decision. If you’re not sure how to proceed, talk to your coworkers and ask how they feel.
If you elect to declare ‘victory’ on your campaign, don’t forget to send a message to your petition signers with an update. Explain why you decided to close the campaign and thank them for their support. By following up with your supporters, they’ll be more likely to support you in future campaigns.
My employer appointed me to a committee to fix this problem. Now what?
Congratulations! A committee assignment can be a critical step toward achieving your goal.
Send an update to petition signers about your committee assignment and your plans on how to best achieve your goal. You may also choose to contact the media at this time.
Stay in touch with your supporters as committee work proceeds — and remember that if you hit a roadblock, you can ask them to take action.
Some of my coworkers are angry with me for starting a campaign. How can I talk to them about it?
This is normal. Not everyone is going to agree on a proposed solution to a problem at work (or that the problem even exists). If you have a chance to talk to this/these coworker(s), you should be ready to explain what the issue is and how you think the change you’re proposing will improve the workplace for everyone.
If your coworker agrees that there is a problem, but has a different idea about how to fix it, be open to their suggestions. Include them in meetings and consider their ideas objectively – a few minds are always better than one. That doesn’t mean you need to change your mind and do what they say – it just creates a larger committee or team of workers who can work together, instead of separately, to find the best possible solution to a problem.
If a coworker is angry with you for using a petition to recruit support, it may just be best to not discuss it with them. Not everyone is going to agree that a petition campaign about workplace issues is the right approach. Be sure to respect this position and focus on the coworkers who are interested in working with you. Either they will come around or they won’t and that’s ok.
My coworker wants to support the campaign but she’s worried about losing her job. Is there another way she can be involved?
If she’s worried about showing her public support for the campaign, she can always help on background with strategy and discussion. But be sure to let her know that it’s illegal under the NLRA to fire an employee for signing a Coworker.org petition to improve working conditions. The more workers who are willing to put their names to a request for workplace change, the more likely it is that the boss is going to pay attention. And we’re all stronger when we’re working on an issue together to arrive at a solution.
I feel like giving up. How long is this supposed to take?
This is hard work. There is no getting around the fact that some days you’ll feel tired, frustrated and angry at the pace of progress. Some campaigns will go fast – your employer might recognize your innovative idea and move immediately to implement it. But some campaigns can take months, even years, to win. Each campaign is different, and the path to victory is determined by many factors. If you’ve been at it for awhile and don’t feel like you’ve made much progress, check in with your group and see how they feel. Maybe a change in tactics would help. But don’t give up! You have the right to help one another and improve your workplace.
WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS?
My employer said I can’t talk to the media.
As long as you’re discussing wages, benefits and/or working conditions with reporters, it’s within your legal right under the NLRA to speak to the media. You should not disclose proprietary information or anything not directly related to your campaign to improve your workplace.
The NLRB ruled that employers cannot prevent employees from speaking to the media about their wages, benefits and working conditions.
My employer is saying that if I don’t take this petition down I’m going to get fired.
Your employer may have just broken the law. Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA protects you from being threatened with any discipline for your petition to improve your job or workplace.
First, thoroughly document any threats or statements made by your supervisor(s) to you or your coworkers. Save any emails that are exchanged about your petition. If you have a conversation with your boss, immediately write down and date the conversation in a journal.
If you haven’t yet, contact the media about your campaign. Email, call or tweet at local reporters who might be interested. Explain to them the facts of your campaign and recent threats from your employer. If your campaign receives media attention, you can go back to the media if your boss decides to retaliate. Sometimes, a reporter’s interest in a campaign can lead to a victory.
Finally, if you do get fired or face disciplinary action, it’s important that you take legal steps to challenge your employer’s actions. See below for more information.
What else can I do if my boss pressures me or my coworkers to stop organizing?
It is illegal under the NLRA for an employer to interfere with your right to engage in protected activity. This means it would be illegal for your employer to tell you and your coworkers that you are forbidden from sending or signing a Coworker.org petition. It would also be illegal for your employer to do anything to prevent or intimidate employees from joining the petition. Actions like these are called “interference.”
Interference can be something that impacts one worker in particular, like cutting an employee’s hours in order to dissuade him or her from engaging in protected activity, or it can be something like a communication made to the entire workforce, like telling employees they cannot talk to any third parties about their working conditions.
If your boss is trying to prevent you from engaging in protected activity, you may want to consider filing an unfair labor practice – see below.
What if I am retaliated against for circulating the petition?
It is illegal for your employer to take retaliatory action against you for having engaged in protected activity. Retaliation can include actions like reducing your hours, or giving you a less favorable work assignment when those actions are taken because you engaged in protected concerted activity. You may want to consider filing an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB – see below.
I got fired. Now what?
First of all, we are truly sorry to hear this. Coworker.org is designed to guide you as carefully as possible towards taking actions that will not result in retaliation from your employer, but nothing is airtight. Thankfully, there are resources available to you and people to help you every step of the way.
The first thing you should do is file what is called an Unfair Labor Practice with your regional NLRB – see below.
Nothing bad has happened to me, but my employer has taken action against a co-worker that I think may have been unlawful. Is there anything I can do?
You might still be able to file an unfair labor practice against your employer. There is no requirement that the person filing a charge be the same person who was actually discriminated against, so any employee could file a charge claiming that an employer committed an unfair labor practice when it took a particular action toward another employee. However, for practical purposes, you’ll probably need the cooperation of your coworker in order to successfully bring an unfair labor practice.
Filing an Unfair Labor Practice with the NLRB
An unfair labor practice is a charge you can file against your employer if you believe they have violated your rights.
The first step you’ll need to take is to find your NLRB Regional Office. You can do so here. Each Regional Office has an Information Officer who can provide some assistance and answer basic questions.
To file an unfair labor practice charge, you will need to fill out a “Charge Against Employer” form. The form will ask you for some basic information about your employer and what happened. Your Region’s Information Officer can help you fill out the form if you need help. To file the form, you will have to fax it or bring it to the Regional Office. You also have to serve a copy of the charge on your employer. You can do this by sending a copy to your employer via regular mail.
After you’ve filed a charge, the Regional Office will review your unfair labor practice charge and conduct an investigation. After you’ve filed the charge, you will be contacted by someone with the Region to gather more information about the allegations in your charge. You may be asked to give an “affidavit,” which is a sworn statement. You may be asked to provide the names of other employees who have information to support the allegations in your charge. You should try to cooperate and provide as much information as you can.
If the Region agrees that what your employer did was unlawful, they will issue a complaint. After this, they may see if your employer is willing to settle, which would involve it paying workers the wages and benefits they lost due to the employer’s unlawful acts (if any), and also agreeing not to act unlawfully in the future. Absent settlement, the Region might end up taking the case to trial.
You can see a flow chart outlining these steps here: http://www.nlrb.gov/node/3947
I’m loving this and I want to learn more. Where do I go from here?
Ah, yes. You have understood the principles of workplace campaigning 101 and are ready for more advanced teachings. Excellent.
Here’s the thing. Sometimes a campaign is won pretty quickly, and that’s an amazing feeling. Other times, a campaign needs a movement of supporters behind it to succeed. When the barriers to change are high, this tends to be the case.
And that’s when you need to build a movement in the workplace.
Movements are comprised of people (coworkers, community members, consumers, etc) united around a common purpose. These individuals can communicate why an issue is important to them and will often experiment together with different tactics over time to build power and instigate long lasting change.
You can’t build a movement alone. A movement is born from a team of people with complementary strengths and diverse skill sets. In a workplace setting, we often refer to this as building “your committee.” After talking to coworkers about your campaign, the next step is to build a committee of people who are willing to take the campaign to the next level. .
To build a movement, you need to find other people in your workplace and your community who care about the issue but have different skills from you. Some coworkers will prefer to use Facebook to network with supporters, share ideas, and recruit new supporters to the campaign. Others will prefer to hit the streets, collecting signatures for the campaign at church or at the library. You might enlist a coworker to create graphics for the campaign, or to follow-up directly via email with petition signers. Real movements grow through collaboration and skill sharing, and while some may step forward more naturally to be leaders, everyone has a part to play.