October 6, 2011
The Pros and Cons of Unions
During the active growth of the industrial movement in the nineteenth century,
uneducated country fold went to larger cities to work in factories and ended up in substandard
work environments, more often than not making low wages. Labor unions formed as a way for
these workers to band together to have equal rights. Labor unions help their members by
negotiating wages, benefits and working conditions – also known as collective bargaining
(Ashcroft and Ashcroft, 354). A single worker would have a slim chance acquiring a raise by
simply going to the employer and requesting one. However, a union worker has the backing of a
group of people that all work towards the same goal. The union has the benefit of representing
the entire workforce, therefore having more success.
On the down side, unions have so much power they can sometimes raise wages and
benefits to unrealistically high levels. When this happens, the cost of labor is often passed down
to the consumer, making products more expensive. The trickle-down effect hurts the economy
and brings the cost of living to levels that the average Joe can’t always handle. It is simple
economics. If labor costs are higher than the market determines it should be, after taking into
account all other factors that make up production, then workers will be laid off or their
compensation will be decreased. Wages are an important factor of production (Harding, 2011)
Benefits offered through a union include family health care that never denies
coverage, disability insurance, retirement and death benefits. Regardless if they are working or
not, if the union dues are paid, they will always have these benefits.
Members have to pay a fee to be in the union. Commonly called union dues, this is often
a deterrent for someone that is not yet a member of a union. They feel they are “paying”
someone else so they can have a job. A union member has to remain in good standing even
when unemployed. They will lose their benefits and any retirement built up since entering the
union. Workers must make that ultimate decision in the beginning. The union may fight for the
rights of their members, but this service is far from free.
Fortunately for a member, all union workers are treated equally in the workplace. There
is no favoritism. Seniority is utilized for promotions. Raising wages and when they will occur is
specified in a contract from the beginning. There are no “surprises”. Everyone is subject to the
same guidelines and job responsibilities. Policies in a business without union representation can
and will change without notice. In a union workplace, everything is determined beforehand.
This benefits both employers and employees. Employees enjoy more consistency because they
know what is expected of them. Employers benefit from a more content work force and less
time spent on training to enforce constant changes.
Strikes are a powerful tool for unions. If demands or negotiations aren’t met by an
employer, every member is expected to quit work immediately. These can cause serious
repercussions to people even if they aren’t involved in the debate. For example, if teachers go on
strike in order to negotiate higher wages, school has to be canceled and students are put out of
class. Nurses can seriously hurt how a hospital is run. Without nurses, there would be nobody
licensed to take care of the patients other than doctors, therefore putting the patient’s health at
risk. Strikes are rare but the potential still must be considered when discussing the benefits or
problems with unionized labor. Current union workers will tell you being a member of a union
today isn’t the same as it
was in the 1970’s or 1980’s. The advantages now are far less...