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Labor unions, also known as trade unions continue to be controversial despite the purpose of supposedly protecting the rights of employees and laborers. A labor union is an organization created by a group of workers of a company to protect its workers when it comes to concerns about wages, working conditions and hours at work.
These unions are more common in mining, construction, manufacturing and transportation industries and in recent years, have suffered a decline particularly in the private sector. Some economists are also not in favor of this practice because of the monopoly that goes along with it. In the United States, labor union organizations include the United Auto Workers, United Steel Workers, American Postal Workers’ Union and the Screen Actor Guild.
Unions play a pivotal role both in securing legislated labor protections and rights such as safety and health, overtime, and family/medical leave and in enforcing those rights on the job. Because unionized workers are more informed, they are more likely to benefit from social insurance programs such as unemployment insurance and workers compensation. Unions are thus an intermediary institution that provides a necessary complement to legislated benefits and protections.
They protect the interests of employees
Organizations like labor unions aim to ensure that workers are given fair compensation for their work. Employees who are members of a labor union are given the voice and support to demand for higher wages, a safe working environment and not work more than eight hours without overtime pay. Without this kind of organization, proponents are concerned about employers taking advantage of their employees. They say that without a support system to back up the employees, the management have all the right to impose policies at the office which are pro-management like no security of tenure, low wages and overtime hours without pay.
They can result to satisfied employees which is beneficial to the company
Employees who are not satisfied with their jobs often leave the company, which can be a loss for the business. With more unhappy workers, resignation is high and this would mean having to train new members of the staff as well as added expense to the company. With a labor union to negotiate with the company regarding better working conditions and higher wages, employees are unlikely to resign because they will be content to work with their employers. This will also mean more productivity from the team and more sales for the company.
Labor unions are responsible for added benefits
Advocates of labor unions believe that an employee is more likely to get what he or she wants when it comes to benefits such as number of paid leaves, retirement benefits and insurance coverage for both single employees and married employees. According to surveys, unionized members enjoy these benefits while only a small percentage of non-union members have access to these benefits.
Employees are protected from discrimination and inequality
Individuals approving of labor unions say that employees who are union members will not be discriminated upon when it comes to religion, race, age and gender. Labor unions can include in their policy a clause about prohibiting the discrimination of an individual on certain factors, including sexual orientation and ailments such as being HIV positive. Without an organization to protect the right of an individual to work, it will be easy for some employers to hire not based on qualifications but on selection.
It results to collective power which is a good thing for employees
Some proponents of labor unions believe that there is strength in numbers which makes these organizations effective in being able for employees to bargain with their employees and get what they want. Through collective bargaining, employees are more likely to get more benefits, higher salaries and better working conditions from management as opposed to forwarding these concerns individually.
More access to benefits
Some 93 percent of unionized workers were entitled to medical benefits compared to 69 percent of their nonunion peers, according to the National Compensation Survey published last year by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The survey represented about 101 million private industry workers and 19 million state and local government employees.
Unmarried domestic partners -- same sex and opposite sex -- also had access more often to these benefits if they were unionized. Workers with union representation also had 89 percent of their health insurance premiums paid by their employer for single coverage and 82 percent for family coverage. For nonunion workers, the comparable numbers were 79 percent and 66 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And 93 percent of unionized workers have access to retirement benefits through employers compared to 64 percent of their nonunion counterparts.
Job security
Nonunion employees are typically hired “at will,” meaning they can be fired for no reason. There are exceptions. Employers can’t terminate a worker for discriminatory reasons such as race, religion, age and the like. Nor can they fire an at-will employee for being a whistleblower and certain other reasons.
However, workers with union jobs can only be terminated for “just cause,” and the misconduct must be serious enough to merit such action. Before an employee can actually be fired, he or she can go through a grievance procedure, and if necessary, arbitration.
Strength in numbers
Unionized workers have more power as a cohesive group than by acting individually. “What you gain is the muscle of collective action,” says Hoyt Wheeler, a professor emeritus at the University of South Carolina who is now a labor arbitrator. Through collective bargaining, workers negotiate wages, health and safety issues, benefits, and working conditions with management via their union.
Rules differ among collective bargaining agreements, but in the event of layoffs, employers usually are required to dismiss the most recent hires first and those with the most seniority last -- sometimes called “last hired, first fired.”
In some cases, a worker with a union job who has more seniority may receive preference for an open job. Seniority also can be a factor in determining who gets a promotion. The idea is that seniority eliminates favoritism in the workplace.

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