An authorization card is a form signed by an employee to designate a union as his or her bargaining agent. The union authorization card is legally binding on the employee, despite any claims the union may make to the contrary. Union authorization cards legally authorize a union to represent an employee for the purposes of collective bargaining with an employer.
There are three things a union can do with the cards which it collects:
1. If the union gets cards signed by 30% of the employees in an appropriate voting unit (i.e. within a store), it can petition the NLRB for an election.
2. If the union gets cards signed by 50% of the employees in an appropriate voting unit, it may request that the employer directly recognize the union as the bargaining agent of its employees without an election. If the employer declines, the union could engage in a recognitional strike.
3. If the union gets cards signed by over 50% of the employees and the employer commits serious unfair labor practices, the union can ask the Labor Board to issue a bargaining order directing the employer to recognize the union and bargain with the union without an election.