Better Benefits vs. Compulsory Dues: The Pros and Cons of Labor Unions
It’s time we have an honest chat about Labor Unions. It’s a veritable minefield of hot-button political and socio-economic issues, but I’d like to put the majority of that to the side. Let’s discuss the brass tacks of the pros and cons of unions and how they affect you. Make sure to keep your helmet securely fastened for this one.
When it comes to employee/employer relations, the employer is in a much stronger position than a single employee. Labor unions empower employees with strength in numbers. The general principle is “they can’t fire us all.” It’s called collective bargaining. When the workers feel that conditions need to change, they go to the employer with their grievances. If those grievances are ignored, the union will support each other and take further action. There are various things unions can do to provoke action from an employer, but the one that tends to get the most attention is striking.
Unions are powerful tools and have literally reshaped the way workers are treated in this country. The power of collective bargaining has led to higher wages, safer working conditions, better benefits, more retirement help, the list goes on and on.
Many unions actually transcend a single workplace and can stretch to any company in a certain field or location. Unions offer job security and often reward loyalty and seniority.
That loyalty and seniority that gets rewarded, it leads to a hierarchy that’s great for the people at the top and less great for the people at the bottom. It creates almost a sub-boss environment where new employees are beholden not only to their employers but to their union bosses as well.
Membership in a union requires monthly or yearly dues or money to help keep the union afloat. This is not necessarily a con in and of itself, but it does cause people to want to opt out of union membership. That’s where the con comes in. In some fields, union membership is compulsory, either de facto or de jure. Until recently, some unions could demand dues from any employee, whether they are a member or not.
The Supreme Court found that practice unconstitutional only a few months ago and it has been seen as a major blow to the power Labor Unions possess. If you can reap the benefits of a union without paying your dues to it, why would anyone pay dues; that’s the thinking anyway. It raises an interesting question
Lesser of Two Evils
It is true that a non-union employee will likely benefit from changes brought about by the unions, effectively giving them a free ride. It is also true that forcing someone to pay for something they don’t want to be a part of is dubious at best. Which one should take priority over the other? According to the Supreme Court, choice is more important. However, what lasting effects will it have on labor unions?
It is irrefutable that unions do a lot of good for workers and their families. It is also difficult to argue that, over the years, unions have taken on more mob-like tendencies. The Supreme Court ruling only affects public sector (or government) jobs, so private sector unions are still more or less free to act as they please.
Is It Worth It?
When you consider the working world before unions and the one that exists now, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t. All the same, the loss of autonomy and choice is still a bitter pill to swallow.