The history of labor unions
Skilled workers have some of the world's most challenging and essential jobs. In the early days of industrialization, business owners were king. They decided who worked, how long, and how much they got paid. As you may imagine, this often led to foul conditions and inequity in many work environments. Child labor, twelve-hour work days, and meager pay were common. Eventually, employees had had enough and joined forces to negotiate for everything from improved working conditions and shorter hours to establishing the minimum wage. These organized groups are still around today and are referred to as labor or trade unions.
Modern-day labor unions, like their ancestors, are an association of workers who join forces to make decisions about wages, working conditions, and much more. Over time, they have become much more developed and strongly influence many industries. So what are the pros and cons of a union group? And how do you know what's right for you?
Labor Union Pros
Labor unions determine the rate of the cost of their services. They work on behalf of their members to negotiate higher salaries with employers. This representation has been shown to raise the average pay for workers in the industry. Additionally, this rise has resulted in higher wages regardless of union membership. However, union members continue to statistically have higher salaries than non-union members.
From the start of the hiring process, labor unions represent their members and help negotiate their benefits. Unions assure that their members get the most out of the deal. They set high standards regarding work conditions, hours, and safety. Therefore, healthcare, insurance, retirement, and PTO are improved for those who join a labor union.
In the trades, networking is key. As a union member, you can connect with fellow members and be a part of a tight-knit community that relies on each other for advice, referrals, and job opportunities. This could facilitate your advancement in their industry, especially if you're not so social and struggle to find networking opportunities on your own.
Working conditions can become dangerous very quickly when working in the trades. Unions put their members' safety at the front line and assure employers watch out for their workers on the job site. Suppose an employer fails to implement safety procedures on a job site or requires employees to use unsafe machinery. In that case, union workers can use the union's support to negotiate without the risk of losing their jobs.
Greater job security
Job security is at the top of the list regarding a person's career. Labor unions enforce strict policies to protect their workers from being terminated by their employers. With a union contract to back you up, a boss or manager will only be able to fire you for a just cause. Union support gives members additional protection when fighting for safer and improved work environments. However, it can also make organizations hesitant to hire you in the first place and has been a controversial factor regarding unions in recent years.
Labor Union Cons
Union dues are subject to state and federal laws. They cover the members' benefits, salaries, events, campaigns, legal representation, and anything else the organization sees necessary. As you may imagine, they can get exceptionally high in some cases, and corruption is not unheard of. High union dues have, in some cases, been found to be allocated to increased salaries and perks for union leaders. However, this is not always the case. So make sure to do your research, and compare the union fees with the legitimacy of the resources they offer before joining.
Union members have to abide by the union's decisions. You may experience limited bargaining power and be unable to accept specific deals without consulting with your union leaders. This can become quite frustrating in some situations as a high-performing individual with connections and experience. You may find you can move up the ladder faster on your own.
In a union, seniority matters. A member that has been a part of the organization for twenty years will have access to more opportunities than someone who has recently joined. Consequently, giving your 100% daily, making connections, and producing the best quality results will not necessarily speed track your way to the top. If you have a strong work ethic, can negotiate skillfully on your own, and have a knack for networking, a union might not be as beneficial for you as someone who lacks those characteristics.
Distrust with employers
Unions can make it very difficult to fire and take away work from employees. These policies have historically made it very difficult to enforce high standards in the workplace in some contexts. Employers sometimes feel that they are unable to reprimand underperforming workers. This may lead to difficulties communicating and negotiating with your employers as an individual.
Overall, there are many pros and cons to joining a union. Your level of experience, work ethic, and career goals should be considered carefully before making a decision. The most important thing to remember is that there are laws and regulations in place to protect you regardless of your decision. Depending on your state, your employer may face restrictions and legal repercussions for reprimanding you for considering or joining a union. Similarly, unions are not permitted to enforce retributions for those who choose not to join or do not follow their demands.
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