Everything has its advantages and disadvantages, and a labor union is not an exception. It is important to consider various factors when it comes to labor unions. As a reminder, a labor union is an organization formed by workers in a particular trade, industry, or company for the purpose of improving pay, benefits, and working conditions.
Officially known as the “labor organization” or “trade union,” a labor union selects representatives to negotiate with employers in a process known as collective bargaining. It is worth noting that, when successful, the bargaining results in an agreement that specifies working conditions for a certain period.
Trade unions organized by employees to fight for employee rights and protections have a long history in the United States. As a matter of fact, the first worker strike predates the American Revolution. Moreover, shoemakers in Pennsylvania organized the first union in 1794.
Labor unions play an important role in the modern world. They have a democratic structure, holding elections to choose officers who are charged with making decisions that are beneficial to the members.
Workers pay dues to a trade organization. In return, the trade union advocates on the employees’ behalf. In many cases, unions are industry-specific and tend to be the most common today among public sector employees and those in transportation and utilities.
Labor Union and its importance
A locally-based group of employees obtains a charter from a national-level labor organization to create a trade union. People should keep in mind that two large organizations oversee most of the labor unions in the country. The first is the Change to Win Federation (CtW), and the second is the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). The Change to Win Federation spun off from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations in 2005.
As a reminder, U.S. law requires an employer to bargain with a trade organization in good faith actively. For employers, it is not mandatory to agree to any specific terms.
It is not an easy task to reach an agreement with employers. It takes time to reach an agreement between the labor union’s bargaining unit and the employer. The union’s bargaining unit aims to protect workers’ interests.
They sign a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The agreement outlines pay scales and include other payment terms, such as vacation and sick days, benefits, etc. After signing the CBA, an employer can’t alter the agreement without a union representative’s approval. Nevertheless, such agreements eventually expire, at which point the labor union and management must negotiate and sign a new agreement.
Disadvantages of labor unions
Not everyone supports labor unions. For example, some business owners, industry associations, and think tanks support right-to-law because requiring union membership to obtain a job reduces competition in the free-market economy.
In some instances, it is hard, if not impossible, to fire incompetent, abusive, and violent employees due to labor union contracts.
For instance, according to a study conducted in 2019, numerous police union contracts included an appeals process in which final decisions on firing and disciplining officers were in the hands of arbitrators selected in part by the local police union. Thus, many police officers can return to their police stations.
Historically, the Republican Party viewed trade unions as a threat to freedom in the workplace. It opposes legislation that makes it easier for unions to organize, such as the PRO Act. On the contrary, the Democratic Party supports the trade unions and usually wins labor union endorsements. However, some unions, such as law enforcement groups, support Republican candidates.