Unions were created in the 1800’s to address the plight of workers during the Industrial Revolution. Plagued by low wages and unsafe working conditions, among other issues, workers banded together to form collective bargaining units that enabled employees to take notice and take action. Though the landscape of industry has changed dramatically since unions’ inception, the need for unions remains crucial. Today, tech giants and other large corporations continue to sacrifice fair working conditions for better profit margins for shareholders. Even public employers seek to balance budgets by underpaying - and undervaluing - employees.
Here’s why unions work.
Better Pay and Benefits
Unionized workers earn a substantial amount more than their non-union counterparts. Studies have shown that workers in a union earn 10.2% more than those not in a union. This rise in wages extends to workers of color, with Black workers seeing an increase of 17.3% and Latino workers seeing an increase of 23.1%, mitigating against much (not all) racial pay disparities. The pay gap for women in unions is also smaller. Union members are also far more likely to have high quality, affordable employer-sponsored healthcare. Unions have played a critical role in getting workers access to paid sick days, as well as paid vacation and holidays.
Increased Workplace Safety
From the outset, unions have advocated for and achieved increases in workplace safety. A recent study reporting on OSHA data found that union worksites are substantially less likely to have a violation (19%) and overall had 34% fewer violations per inspection than non-union worksites. Increases in workplace safety can be attributed to many things that unions have fought for including proper equipment and training, 8-hour workdays, and consistent schedules. Unions also serve as a reporter of workplace safety violations, adding another layer of oversight.
Opportunities for Career Advancement
Unions provide training and career development opportunities for members. Members may also be able to seek assistance for certifications directly related to their role, as well as continuing professional development offerings to ensure that members maintain a high level of skills and expertise in their particular field. Additionally, unions support their members through loan assistance and debt counseling.
The nature of collective bargaining means there are even more benefits to joining a union than outlined above. If you or someone you know is looking for a pathway to success, unions provide opportunities for workers in many industries.