In nearly every single argument regarding Unions I receive two responses:

  • Unions did a lot, but we don’t need them now.
  • Unions protect bad workers, so we don’t need them.

I find both of these arguments ridiculous and let me tell you why.

Unions protect bad workers, so we don’t need them.

I have had a lot of jobs in my lifetime and I have never belonged to a Union.  At a lot of my jobs, I have sat next to or worked with someone who to put it bluntly sucked at their job.  They either didn’t work very hard (or, as hard as I think they should) or they were difficult and some we’re so busy holding on to knowledge that they actually hindered the work of the people around them.  Some people in this world are lazy.  This isn’t an opinion – it is an observable fact.  Some people rise as far as they can on the food chain and then stop putting in the effort – in other words – they just do what they need to do to get by and that’s it.

But, to say that Unions protect bad workers as a reason to not have a Union means that you’ve never experienced how bad workers are protected every day.  I once worked with a woman that was so bad that I wondered if she had pictures of our boss dancing naked at a pool party because nothing ever happened to her.  I don’t know if he felt sorry for her or what, but she did as little as possible and when you asked her a question, you usually got a blank stare.  For the record, I hate blank stares and I hate pulling someone’s teeth to get an answer, so I become an non-team player and just go find the answer myself and refuse to work with people who don’t want to work with me.  Oh, I’m pleasant, but pretty much, I’m calling you a moron in my head.

We’re never going to eliminate bad workers, but eliminating protections for good workers just to punish the bad ones is a lousy idea.

Unions did a lot, but we don’t need them now.

I once had a job where I busted my butt.  I was the second one in (in a group of 35) and the last to leave at night.  I would stick around work writing reports until 6 or 7 after arriving in the office at 8 and skipping lunch or eating at my desk.  I received near perfect reviews, which should have translated into large raises, as you received a percent based on the five point scale you met (earn a score of 5, you received 5%, for example).  However; since I was at the top of the food chain for my wage group, I never received the top raise.  Never, not once.  And, before you say, “Well, Julie, that’s just one job.”  This has actually been at the last three jobs I’ve held.  It’s one of the reasons I move around – to get that wage I feel I deserve.

At one position, I was told by my boss that yes, I did a great job; but you’re overpaid, so I’m not giving you a raise.  That wouldn’t happen in a Union position.  There would be set rules to follow.  I’m all for merit pay, but it seems like merit pay means, bust your ass and we’re give you whatever we feel like giving you.

Now, I’m blessed in that I have a college degree and I work in a field that has more positions than available workers.  When I’m unhappy or feel unappreciated, I just send out my resume and, usually, within three months (sometimes more, sometimes less) I have a brand new job with a brand new higher salary.

However; most people aren’t blessed to have a skill or live in an area where their skill is in high demand.  They get what the market pays and when times are a little tough, they cut salaries of the workers.

Have you ever noticed that CEOs never take pay cuts?  CEOs always have health care.  CEOs have paid sick days and vacation days.  Why is that?  Have they worked harder than the rest of us?  Hardly.  Have they made the company more profitable or run better?  Only if they’ve laid off a bunch of people for the first one and not very likely for the second.  There’s a reason the CEO of your company doesn’t want the workers to join a Union.  And, it has NOTHING to do with “You shouldn’t have to join a Union to work here.”  When employees join together to negotiate salaries and benefits, all of the employees benefit: from the dishwasher up to the computer programmer or sales clerk.

Want some hard facts?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “In 2012, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $943, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $742.”  That’s a difference of $201.  Over the course of a year, the amount adds up to $10,452 more that the Union member earns.

Still think Unions are bad for you?