Since the inception of labor unions and the labor union movement, there has been some controversy surrounding their existence. With over 10% of American workers belonging to a worker’s union, they have become a part of the conversation. And as such, there is some disagreement about whether or not they are genuinely effective.
Some think labor unions are essential to ensuring that workers get a voice, adequate pay, and a protocol to preserve rights. On the flip side, some say that unions make it harder for workers to get certain benefits; not to mention, the dues collected can be a strain for those who are forced to pay them. In this article, we look at labor unions and the controversy that can sometimes surround them. Are they beneficial, or are they doing more harm than good? What are some of the pros and cons of labor unions in the United States?
The Pros of Having Labor Unions
1. Union members often get higher wages. Plus, unions also fight for benefits in addition to securing workers better wages. Many studies have shown that union workers have access to superior retirement benefits versus those who do not belong to a union. Especially in this economy, especially with inflation, workers need to have the peace of mind of knowing that their wages are fair. Unions help ensure that people get paid what they’re supposed to be getting paid.
2. Unions offer workers a complaint and dispute process. In other words, when you’re part of a union, there’s protocol in place for filing a dispute or raising a grievance against an employer. Unions, in many cases, will be very active in handling the details of a dispute. Some unions will help offset legal fees for employees suing their employers; for example, certain wrongful termination lawsuits may be covered by unions.
3. Labor unions ensure good working conditions. One of the ways they do this is to advocate for laws that help keep critical protections in place. Historically, unions have helped to ensure better working conditions. For example, unions helped do away with the 12-hour workday and make an eight-hour workday the norm.
4. Labor unions help provide better job security. Often, union workers can only be fired for cause. They, therefore, don’t necessarily have to be afraid about speaking up in their place of work regarding problems that they see or experience.
The Cons of Labor Unions
1. Members have to pay union dues. Union dues pay for the union’s existence and pay the salaries of union management. Paying union dues isn’t always feasible for everyone during difficult financial times.
2. The union often restricts union workers. That is to say, when the union makes a decision, its members are very often bound by that decision. This means that a union worker has less autonomy than someone who does not belong to a union.
3. Unions can create tension. Not all employers are in favor of labor unions. This can inevitably lead to tension between union employees and their employers. A tense workplace is not necessarily the best atmosphere for promoting productivity and trust.
4. Politics can come into play. There is often a political component of union membership. If an individual disagrees with the politics of their union, then this could become problematic for a worker.
As with anything, there will be two sides to the debate: are labor unions a good idea, or are they creating unnecessary divides? The key, labor union or not, is to strive for a synergistic workplace and one in which the lines of communication are always open.
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