Calls for unionisation have recently made headlines, but is a union job appropriate for you?
Union membership is at its greatest level in nearly 60 years. According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2021, 68 percent of Americans now embrace unions.
Recent multi-industry labour movements and pro-union organisations may have you thinking, “What’s the big deal?” “How could a union help me?”
The truth is that unions can do a lot, particularly if you want to stop living paycheck to paycheck. Here are 12 reasons why you should think about joining one.
Here are some reasons why you might consider joining a union.
1. You will most likely earn more.
The entire purpose of labour unions is to advocate for their members, which includes you and your coworkers. Unions advocate for greater salaries as one of the ways they do so.
According to an Economic Policy Institute analysis, union members are paid 11.2 percent more than non-union employees on average. If you’re looking for strategies to get out of debt, this extra cash can be really beneficial.
Employers in non-union jobs are free to determine their own wages. However, in a union position, businesses must account to union reps — and to their employees — which helps maintain wages reasonable and competitive.
2. You are less likely to be subjected to salary discrimination.
According to the same EPI data, Black union workers earn 13.7 percent more than Black employees who are not unionised. Hispanic union workers earn 20.1 percent more than non-union workers.
Women see less salary discrimination in union employment as well. According to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, professional women earn 75 cents for every dollar earned by males in non-unionized workplaces (AFL-CIO).
Professional women, on the other hand, earn 81 cents on the dollar when unionised. The gender wage gap remains, but it is slightly narrower than in non-union jobs.
3. You have a higher chance of having health insurance.
Working under union protection means you’re more likely to receive health benefits in addition to a better income. According to the EPI, 94 percent of labour union members receive health insurance as part of their employment remuneration package. Only 68 percent of non-union workers can make the same claim.
Of course, the breadth of those advantages differs from one employer to the next. If you’re thinking about joining a unionised company and need more comprehensive coverage now or in the future, talk to your union rep about negotiating for better insurance.
4. You’ll most likely obtain additional vacation time.
Unions can assist you in obtaining significant employment advantages such as competitive pay and employer-sponsored health insurance. Unionized workers are more likely to have paid sick leave and vacation days than non-unionized workers.
This means you’ll be able to take time from work to care for your health and family — or simply relax — without fear of losing a paycheck or suffering disciplinary action.
5. You have a better chance of having a pension.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 94 percent of union employees have access to workplace retirement plans, compared to only 67 percent of non-union employees. But here’s where the pension story becomes complicated.
Eighty-five percent of union workers who are offered retirement benefits choose to enrol. Employer-sponsored retirement plans are used by only 51% of non-union workers.
There could be a variety of explanations for this disparity, but the bottom line is that union protection is intrinsically tied to increased financial stability when you leave the labour.
6. You will have more control over your work schedule.
If you’ve ever had a non-union job, you’ve most likely been asked to work outside of your regular hours or take on extra shifts. You might have even been urged to work less or leave earlier to help the company save money.
A union, on the other hand, makes it more difficult for your employer to take advantage of you. You’ll have more control over your schedule, including the ability to resist the impulse to work longer hours than necessary.
7. You will not be forced to do someone else’s work.
Have you ever had a supervisor who simply piled work on top of you that you weren’t hired or paid to do? That is significantly less likely to occur in unionised workplaces.
Because union representatives work to ensure that responsibilities and expectations are properly outlined and followed. When your job obligations exceed those standards, your title, or your pay grade, your union representative can assist you in fighting it.
8. You’ll have better working conditions.
You’ve probably heard of OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. However, you may be surprised to learn that labour unions were important in convincing Congress to establish the agency in the early 1970s.
Today, workplace safety remains a primary focus for labour organisations. As a unionised worker, you may hold your bosses accountable for reducing workplace health and safety concerns. It also means you have a union representative on your side when you bring up unsafe practises, compliance difficulties, or dangerous situations at work.
9. Your work security will improve.
Employment at will is both a blessing and a curse. It means you have the freedom to quit whenever you want, as well as the freedom to be fired.
If you’re a union member, your supervisor won’t let you go so easy. Typically, the manager must follow union-mandated rules and demonstrate that terminating your employment is justified. If you believe your termination was unjustified, your union representative will assist you in fighting it.
10. You will not have to face layoffs alone.
If your firm confronts a round of layoffs or furloughs, your union can advocate on your behalf and that of your coworkers. This means that, while the layoffs will be frustrating and frightening, they will be handled fairly.
Labor unions can also negotiate severance benefits on your behalf, offering a crucial financial buffer at a critical juncture.
Pro tip: If you’ve been laid off, you can use these money manoeuvres to alleviate financial stress until you find new work.
11. You will be educated on your legal rights.
Unions do not simply stand up for you and walk away. Instead, some of them educate you how to advocate for yourself.
Consider the AFL-CIO. This organisation provides public policy and economics workshops, as well as labour movement organisation and advocacy. Participating in training programmes like this ensures that you will always have the information and leadership skills necessary to continue advocating for safe and equitable working conditions.
12. You’ll have more authority.
All of these union benefits boil down to one overriding advantage: the collective bargaining and worker solidarity effect that comes with collective bargaining.
Going up against your bosses or company executives alone can be scary. And in the wrong setting, it can have major career ramifications, causing people to put their heads down and remain silent.
However, with the protection and security of a union, you will not only be able to speak up, but also be heard.
Joining a union provides both practical and intangible advantages. You’ll most certainly receive a more competitive salary, but you’ll also be more protected against workplace harassment and discrimination.
Because unionised companies are set up to emphasise employee needs, the benefits of working a union job might begin before you’re even hired. This can give you greater negotiating power when negotiating a job offer and also help you plan for the next recession and the layoffs that may result.
Look up labour unions in your desired industry and browse their employment boards. Don’t be hesitant to ask for what you’re worth in terms of wages and working circumstances.