When you get a new job, you may have the option to join voluntarily join a labor union, an organization that protects the interest of its members. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 11.9 percent of U.S. workers were members of a union in 2010, a 0.4 percent decrease from the previous year.
Non-unionized workers are those who are not members of a union and do not have union representation at the workplace. A 2003 report for the BLS states that a unionized workforce is one that has a recognized labor organization or employee association that serves as a bargaining liaison. A workforce can bargain or negotiate its salary and wage rates through a union, as well as employee benefits, complaint procedures, workplace safety and policy and procedures.
Background and Growth
After the Great Depression, the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, or Wagner Act, was passed. This act was fundamental to worker’s rights because it allowed employees to join unions and bargain collectively with employers. Before this act, unions did not experience much bargaining success. Consequently, between the years 1935 and 1940, the unionized work force rose from 3.8 million to 9 million individuals; the unionize workforce continued to grow during and after World War II. By 2007, union membership accounted for 12.1 percent of the U.S. work force, and unionization was at its highest in 2008 at 12.4 percent, with 36.8 percent of public sector employees and 7.6 percent of private sector employees making up the unionized work force. However, membership steadily declined to 11.9 percent in 2010, when 36.2 percent of public sector employees and 6.9 percent of private sector employees made up the unionized work force in the U.S., according to the BLS.
Pros and Cons
A unionized workforce often earns higher wages. However, according to Francis Kramarz, an economics professor at Ecole Polytechnique in France, this increase in wages may come at the expense of fewer jobs. Union members generally pay dues and, according to Kramarz, outsourcing labor to other countries can raise the cost of dues. Union workers are more likely to receive benefits than those in a non-unionized workforce, according to the BLS. Regardless if a work force is unionized or not, companies and employees rely on the viability of the enterprise and the continuity of production, which a company can achieve through structural and managerial changes. Some union policies may detract from worker satisfaction and lead to higher rates of employee turnover, poor work quality and strikes.
The BLS states that in 2010, full-time employees in a unionized work force earned a median salary of $917 per week. During the same year, non-unionized employees earned a median salary of $717. According to the BLS, the difference in wages is a result of union representation, occupation, geographic location and company size.
About the Author
Flora Richards-Gustafson has been writing professionally since 2003. She creates copy for websites, marketing materials and printed publications. Richards-Gustafson specializes in SEO and writing about small-business strategies, health and beauty, interior design, emergency preparedness and education. Richards-Gustafson received a Bachelor of Arts from George Fox University in 2003 and was recognized by Cambridge's "Who's Who" in 2009 as a leading woman entrepreneur.
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Sample Persuasive Essay on Unions
It is very important for people working in a large organization to have and be part of a union. A labor union is defined as a collection of workers who come together to meet common goals and practices. It is good to be in a union because the workers belonging to a union can collectively bargain with their employers. Collective bargaining is one of the most important aspects for any union, be it in sports, or any other labor pool. This provision allows the employees to ask for their rights in a collective manner, that is in the form of unions. Employee involvement, if appropriately structured, generally improves the economic productivity of the firm. This is why the workers feel a duty for collective bargaining as it provides them with a strong collective voice. Many of the workers have also expressed a preference for representation through an employee organization that interacts with management in a non-adversarial manner.
Unions allow the workers to ask for their legitimate rights. Unions can enforce job security standard in a relatively expeditious and inexpensive arbitration forum. Unions can contest disparate treatment, where a person claims that he/she is being less favored than others are. Many collective bargaining please are also because of disparate impact, which means that the person is being discriminated against even thought the company's policies on the face do not show any discriminatory patterns. This is why it is extremely important for workers to be part of a union because a worker alone might face many problems but these problems can be resolved if the worker was part of a union. Also, many employers would find it much of a hassle to confront a union, while making one person the blunt of authority is much easier.
Being in a union has many advantages. If you were to take a look at history, a lot has changed and much has been developed in the area of wages and welfare work. The US government enacted the Social Security Act in 1935 and this was the first time where workers' consideration was taken into account. Throughout the times that followed, many more things were developed in providing better wages and wage-alternatives to the workers (Henretta & O'Rand 138). This was all possible because of the interaction between the management and the unions. It is highly unlikely that a single worker could have worked to have these laws implemented. However, it were the unions that were able to bargain with the management and able to provide such wage benefits as fringe benefits. Fringe benefits, also known as employee benefits, perquisites, or perks, are provided to many employees by their organizations. Many new organizations provide some extra benefits to the employees in order to give them more incentive to work. These benefits can include anything from basic medical and dental coverage to extremely lavish company-paid vacations. These packages were developed through management-union agreements that came about because of the government's taxation and social insurance policies
So, we see that unions are very important for employees. They not only help in raising the workers wages but also help in reducing wage inequality amongst the workers. Unions also end up helping the employees who are not unionized and this means that “the impact of unions on total nonunion wages is almost as large as the impact on total union wages. “The most sweeping advantage for unionized workers is in fringe benefits. Unionized workers are more likely than their nonunionized counterparts to receive paid leave, are approximately 18% to 28% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and are 23% to 54% more likely to be in employer-provided pension plans” (Mishel and Walters).
Henretta, J.C., & A. M. O'Rand., Age and Inequality: Diverse Pathways through Later Life. Westview Press: Boulder, CO. 1999
Mishel, L. and M. Walters, “How Unions Help All Workers,” EPI Briefing Paper #143, 2003. Available online: http://www.epi.org/content.cfm/briefingpapers_bp143