Scott Walker faced a recall election because of his administration’s efforts to curb the rights of public employee’s labor unions in Wisconsin. Right to work legislation is gutting the ability of labor unions to function. Many today see labor unions as something to avoid, but they do bring a number of advantages that must be considered as well. Here is a look at the pros and cons that labor unions provide a community, a state, and a nation.
What Are the Pros of Labor Unions?
1. They have standardized the employment process.
Instead of managers deciding that they don’t like the color of an employee’s shirt, so they terminate their employment, labor unions have help to create a standard process of complaints, grievances, and workplace discipline that allows for fair and equal representation when disputes arise. Legal representation may even be provided if wrongful termination is suspected.
2. They have help to improve workplace conditions.
Labor unions fight for better pay and benefits for those they represent. They negotiation contracts and work to require safer working conditions for those who earn a paycheck. These benefits are often experienced by non-union employees as well. Although the laws require some of this conduct today, without labor unions, a business that can find a loop hole will exploit it if it means better profits.
3. Skills improve within the employee pool.
Labor unions attract skilled laborers to employers because of their better wages, benefits, and working environments. There is often a specific path that is designated for training, promotions, and raises. This means a company can become more productive because their employees have better skills and don’t have to compete with each other for specific job opening opportunities.
4. There is a certain level of political influence.
Labor unions don’t just represent workers to businesses. They also represent workers to their elected officials at all levels of government. To some extent, this also means they represent businesses and industries as well. This gives the average a worker an equal voice on a political stage when normally they might not have one at all.
5. They provide legal protections against discrimination.
Many employees aren’t fully aware of what their rights might be. Labor unions help to provide a structure of learning where these rights are appropriately communicated to each employee. This helps to provide legal protections against discrimination that occur by the tens of thousands in the United States every year.
What Are the Cons of Labor Unions?
1. They increase the prices of goods and services at the local level.
Higher wages often mean higher prices for goods that are presented to consumers. In times of economic stagnation, this can mean that a business may become less competitive because of the unionized contract demands that have been agreed upon.
2. Labor unions can sometimes hold businesses hostage.
If employees go on strike, a business is left scrambling to either find replacement workers or to find a way to compromise with the demands that have been made by their employee pool. If neither happens, a business can lose its market share very rapidly and that ultimately effects the infrastructure of the business in numerous ways.
3. Workers must pay fees to join a union.
Some might say the fees of union membership are extravagant, but the average worker pays between 1.5-3% of their salary to the union for the representation they receive. Sometimes this representation is effective, while at other times it has gone to fund lavish lifestyles of union representatives.
4. Sometimes workers that deserve to be fired can’t be fired because of the union.
Employment contracts that are negotiated with labor unions generally have specific requirements of employee conduct that must be met. This might mean performance quotas, attendance quotas, or workplace tasks that are mandatory to complete daily. If these stipulations are met, even if it takes just 30 minutes to meet them, then a worker can do nothing the rest of the day and still get paid.
5. They only represent one population demographic.
Labor unions might have an equal influence in government when compared to businesses, but this influence is superior to that of the average person. Since the goal of the union is to represent the average person, this creates a paradox where only one population demographic is represented – the employed – even though all may need representation.
Labor Unions Have Protected Workers Since the Roman Empire.
Have they finally outlived their purpose? By weighing the pros and cons equally and with an open mind, each person can decide on their own if unionizing makes sense for them.