What Good is a Union?
You may hear people ask this question, and you may ask it yourself. It’s a fair question and deserves an answer. First off, unions are human organizations, and like all human organizations, they are imperfect, combining advantages with disadvantages. However, we believe, if you weigh advantages against disadvantages in unions, the scale falls heavily in favor of advantage. Consider the following,
Unions promote and protect long-term stable employment for their members. Most people want work that is dependable and secure, and that is what unions provide through negotiated contracts with employers. The much-discussed phenomenon of contingent part-time employment in our new economy is essentially a by-product of non-unionized labor.
Pay and Benefits
Unionized workers on average out-earn non-unionized workers in comparable occupations and have better benefits. Unionized faculty in Ontario’s public colleges can quickly confirm this for their sector by comparing their pay and benefits with non-unionized faculty in private colleges. There really is no comparison, and this stark difference reflects the union advantage.
People sometimes complain about the rules and regulations that govern safety in work environments, but the alternative for most workers is increased risk of injury. Unions historically championed workplace safety legislation, and they are active monitors of compliance today. Although safety standards are mandated by law, unions are integral to their ongoing maintenance and development.
Unions are democracies answerable to their members. Union leadership is by election and open to all members, and regular open meetings allow direct participation in decision-making. The union also represents its members in disputes with management, providing protections and supports to insure representation and a balance of power in difficult circumstances.
The union advantage is stable secure employment at good pay with benefits in a safe environment which allows workers a voice in democratic self-governance. That’s a long list of advantages. For those who are interested in more detailed information, this site will provide further discussion of each of these advantages as well as a frank look at some of the objections to unions and unionization. There are always two sides (at least) to any issue, and the issue of unions, pro and con, is no exception. However, we believe unionization is very much in your interest, and this short summary presents the key advantages.
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