Labor unions, also known as trade unions continue to be controversial despite the purpose of supposedly protecting the rights of employees and laborers. A labor union is an organization created by a group of workers of a company to protect its workers when it comes to concerns on wages, working conditions and hours at work.
These unions are more common in mining, construction, manufacturing and transportation industries and in recent years, have suffered a decline particularly in the private sector. Some economists are also not in favor of this practice because of the monopoly that goes along with it. In the United States, labor union organizations include the United Auto Workers, United Steel Workers, American Postal Workers’ Union and the Screen Actor Guild. Here is a look at the pros and cons presented by the advocates and critics of labor unions.
The Pros of Labor Unions
1. They protect the interests of employees.
Organizations like labor unions aim to ensure that workers are given fair compensation for their work. Employees who are members of a labor union are given the voice and support to demand for higher wages, a safe working environment and not work more than eight hours without overtime pay. Without this kind of organization, proponents are concerned about employers taking advantage of their employees. They say that without a support system to back up the employees, the management have all the right to impose policies at the office which are pro-management like no security of tenure, low wages and overtime hours without pay.
2. They can result to satisfied employees which is beneficial to the company.
Employees who are not satisfied with their jobs often leave the company, which can be a loss for the business. With more unhappy workers, resignation is high and this would mean having to train new members of the staff as well as added expense to the company. With a labor union to negotiate with the company regarding better working conditions and higher wages, employees are unlikely to resign because they will be content to work with their employers. This will also mean more productivity from the team and more sales for the company.
3. Labor unions are responsible for added benefits.
Advocates of labor unions believe that an employee is more likely to get what he or she wants when it comes to benefits such as number of paid leaves, retirement benefits and insurance coverage for both single employees and married employees. According to surveys, unionized members enjoy these benefits while only a small percentage of non-union members have access to these benefits.
4. Employees are protected from discrimination and inequality.
Individuals approving of labor unions say that employees who are union members will not be discriminated upon when it comes to religion, race, age and gender. Labor unions can include in their policy a clause about prohibiting the discrimination of an individual on certain factors, including sexual orientation and ailments such as being HIV positive. Without an organization to protect the right of an individual to work, it will be easy for some employers to hire not based on qualifications but on selection.
5. It results to collective power which is a good thing for employees.
Some proponents of labor unions believe that there is strength in numbers which makes these organizations effective in being able for employees to bargain with their employees and get what they want. Through collective bargaining, employees are more likely to get more benefits, higher salaries and better working conditions from management as opposed to forwarding these concerns individually.
The Cons of Labor Unions
1. They are cartels.
According to critics, labor unions can be monopolized and can be run by cartels. With their power to demand for higher wages, they also cut down the number of jobs available in the market. It might be beneficial to the union members but employers are forced to cut down on hiring other workers for certain jobs. Those who are against say that the ones who are in the losing end are those non-members, taxpayers and the consumers.
2. They enjoy privileges such as immunity from taxation and antitrust laws.
Opponents of trade unions raise their concern on these two issues. Even if a labor union is an organization, it is exempted from taxes, which opponents believe should be paid to the government. An antitrust law, on the other hand, finds any restraint in commerce and trade as illegal. With labor unions, employees have the right to stop production and go on strikes which in effect is a form of restraining trade and commerce. The end result will be less supply and higher prices of the affected products. They will not be sanctioned because they exempted from antitrust laws. These exemptions are contended by opponents,
3. Labor unions can be costly not only for the employers but to employees as well.
With the government backing up labor unions, critics say that in the long run, the employees are the ones who will suffer because these organizations often demand membership dues which can be a dent to the net amount employees should be bringing home to their families. They are also not agreeing to the way the system works especially when it comes to boycotts and strikes, pointing out that not all members want to join these activities. Despite their reluctance, they have no choice but to be a part of these unrests since they are union members.
4. Employees are dictated by these labor unions.
One of the criticisms thrown at labor unions is the effect on employees’ performance. Although these organizations can influence workers’ productivity by way of getting higher salaries, labor unions can also demand union members to stop carrying their tasks, which would curtail production and affect the consumers directly.
Both proponents and opponents of labor unions have relevant points when it comes to labor unions. These organizations have a number of benefits to offer members but there are also economists who don’t completely agree that it is what the economy needs and in the U.S., unions have become unpopular with the private sector. These types of organizations have advantages and disadvantages that should be taken in consideration by the government and voters alike. The important thing is for any employee to know and understand the policies of a certain labor union before he or she joins one.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.