When it comes to unions, tread lightly depending upon who you're interviewing. Asking a friend, colleague, or stranger whether unions are good or bad will certainly spark a heated debate.
In truth, some love them, some hate them.
But if you want to take a moment to consider the pros and cons for yourself, you may have a better understanding of why each side of the longheld debate feels the way they do.
Pros and Cons of Pay and Benefits
There are pros and cons for both employee and employer when it comes to pay and benefits.
For example, unions can negotiate higher pay, better benefits, and working conditions through collective bargaining. The goal is fairness in the efforts related to pay and benefits.
Not only do unionized employee benefits greatly from these bargaining efforts, but also non-unionized employees employed elsewhere. When wages are discussed in an industry, all employers are forced to raise their wages to stay competitive for top talent.
On the other hand, wages can also raise to inflated levels and cause an undesirable trickle-down effect which may cause outsourcing, an increase of good costs, and the hiring of skeleton crews to cut costs. So, inadvertently, workers may raise their rates so high that they end up unable to find work.
Union Disputes and Grievances
Formal methods to handle problems within the workforce make for a more streamlined problem-solving process. Because unions promote these formal processes through disputes and grievances, workers and management can work through problems efficiently and fairly. What’s more, some unions help pay legal fees for their employees when severe situations arise, like wrongful termination, for example.
Unions provide advocacy for employees and have the ability to make disciplinary decisions, rather than the employer.
Employees may enjoy better job security due to the advocacy of a union. However, some might argue that employers are unable to manage their employees efficiently due to the constraints of union advocacy.
Unions may even make it harder for employers to fire poor employees. What’s worse, employers may struggle to promote good employees due to some of the rules and procedures set forth by unions.
Unions Promote Shared Power
Due to the strong advocacy of unions, there is power in numbers. The union is often viewed as a collective voice, which when enacted often leads to negotiations that may be non-negotiable for employers if they want to keep their businesses up and running. If employers refuse to negotiate, they run the risk of their workforce going on strike, for example.
While the power of a collective voice is often beneficial to the employee, the employer may lose productivity amongst their workforce.
Furthermore, negative relationships are often formed between employee and employer due to extreme demands that may arise.
So, while the employer has an authoritative role, the employees can collectively gather and voice their concerns. Hopefully, this can be done without hostility and long-lasting bitterness between employee and employer.
Another downside for a unionized worker is that if the rest of the force goes on strike, majority rules, and they must join the strike, and in turn, lose out on wages.
The public opinion may also be affected by a strike from unionized workers, especially if they're already making more money than the rest of the non-unionized workforce. Employees may appear greedy and selfish in the public eye.
Additionally, if the public agrees with the strike, and backs the workers, they may also go on strike themselves. For example, they may refuse to purchase products, services, or goods produced by the company under strike.
Are Unions Good or Bad Across The Board?
There are so many unions with different ways of doing things. It can be hard to clearly see the pros and cons of a union because each of them is different, and they are always evolving.
To a worker, the union may look attractive based on the advocacy, but it can also backfire if not organized well amongst leadership.
Indeed, the employer-employee relationship can also benefit from a union’s ability to balance power between the two. However, if one side of the coin abuses the relationship, things can get ugly for either of the two.
While union membership is not as popular as it once was, there has been a recent resurgence and growth. Deciding if a union is a good or bad thing depends a lot on perspective, so where do you stand?