Unions. Helpful or Harmful?

This week’s research on unions lead to some positive appraisals of them in my opinion. However, this was not my lived experience when I was a part of a union. The company I currently work for has two locations: Portland and Corvallis. I began this job at the Corvallis location where my biggest complaint was the lack of breaks. When I moved to the Portland location, this same situation happened; due to the low staff and high intensity nature of the job, breaks are hard to come by. However one difference at the Portland location was they were a part of a union. Since breaks were still not honored here, the union only affected me in two ways. I involuntarily had to pay union dues, and the process for receiving the company-wide bonus was delayed by a month at the Portland location because “all wage changes had to undergo a bargaining process” due to the union. All in all, my wages were negatively affected by the union, and I still wasn’t getting sufficient breaks. While my experience in the union was a negative one, it only lasted three months before I moved back to the Corvallis location. Maybe I would have seen the benefits if I had stuck around longer, asked questions, or attended a union meeting. But I didn’t do any of those things.

While my union experience negatively affected my wages, studies show that unions generally have the opposite effect. Throughout history, higher wages and lower wage inequality have been associated with a stronger union presence in the American economy (Kristof, 2015). Additionally, unions are strong advocators for mandates that positively affect non-union workers such as higher minimum wage. While unions aren’t always perfectly conducted, neither are corporations. Union presence helps add a check and balance that as as a safeguard against immoral corporate schemes. The primary con with unions is that they can make it harder to fire someone that is unfit for the position they hold. We’ve all experienced teachers that have no business standing in front of a classroom of students. Unions are one of the reasons they are allowed to.

Kristof, N. (2015, February 19). The cost of a decline in unions. The New York Times. Retrieved December 2, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/19/opinion/nicholas-kristof-the-cost-of-a-decline-in-unions.html?smid=pl-share&_r=0

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