A recent article by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) outlined the importance of today’s labor unions in empowering all modern workers. Amidst many Right to Work debates percolating across the country and union membership being thwarted at every turn, it’s essential to consider the progress labor unions have made while also remembering what we’re fighting so hard to preserve.
The report, a combined effort by the EPI director, calls attention to various primary union benefits.
#1: Collective Bargaining Is Key
Collective bargaining is a key benefit of unions. Using collective bargaining, labor unions work as a democratic organization to resolve issues. Democracy is a cornerstone of the American founding and one that the operation of unions strengthens. Labor unions work directly with management to resolve conflicts that workers cannot settle themselves.
It’s our belief that collective bargaining encourages respectful negotiations, collaborative problem solving and overall better working conditions (wage increases, health care options, and workplace safety). This form of due process aids strong, deserving families and helps benefits filter throughout the entire employee base, affecting union and nonunion workers alike. When workers are given a voice in policy debates, they’re able to shape their own careers and gain their fair share of economic wealth.
#2: Unions Value and Promote Diversity
Unions are as diverse as America. They are truly melting pots of different ethnicities, races, ages, and cultures that enrich every member. As a result, labor unions help reduce inequality and gender/racial wage disparities. Unions also consist of members with varying levels of education under their belts. This further bolsters unity amongst union ranks, as older workers learn new tricks and younger workers learn timeless truths from experience. One of the benefits of unions is the the promotion of diversity and values. The more diverse the union, the more it thrives.
#3: Unions Are Growing Rapidly
A clear benefit of unions is their growth rate and prominence in society. There are a large variety of labor unions in different industries to meet your financial and lifestyle needs. Unions are spreading at a rapid rate. Union workers come from a variety of sectors, but primarily from health care or education. We’re currently experiencing expansion in the public administration and transportation industries, measuring around 33 and 27 percent growth respectively. Labor unions are experiencing rapid growth as individuals learn more about union benefits. This upward trend of union membership is encouraging, as many labor unions attempt to modernize in order to appeal to a younger demographic. (Read about Labor United’s efforts to engage youth here.)
#4: Unions Help Secure Your Financial Future
There’s been a significant shift in retirement benefit methods. For many nonunion workers, the tide has turned from defined-benefit pensions that offer guaranteed income to defined-contribution systems, for example, a 401 (k) that requires workers to carry risk with no guarantees. A benefit of unions includes their comprehensive retirement plans and packages. Labor unions are particularly relevant now since these significant changes leave many low- to middle-income families without any retirement benefits. In this way, joining a union is a reliable investment in your future. And, even if you’re not in a union, the union benefits packages have influenced policy decisions and prompted many other workplaces to follow suit.
So, what happens now?
Labor unions are necessary for a just democracy. A fair democratic system benefits all citizens, whether they’re in a union or not.
Our primary job at Labor United is to educate individuals on union benefits. In order for workers—union and non-union alike—to fully understand what being in a union entails, they must have sufficient access to information. We’re fervently trying to change the common stigma of union workers as those who take all and give none because, in reality, we fight for fairness and give back more to our communities. Labor unions provide benefits union workers, non-union workers, and society.
Here are some simple things our supporters and those looking to change the perception of unions can do in their neighborhoods:
- Talk it out: Respectfully discuss union benefits with non-union supporters and how your union membership has enriched your life.
- Stay informed: We don’t talk about union benefits for our health. It’s crucial to follow the conversations regarding your own union and unions in your area so you know how to get involved. Read newspapers, magazines, pamphlets and other publications from different perspectives to get a well-rounded view of the issues.
- Follow Labor United: Labor United is dedicated to raising awareness of the benefits of skilled labor unions. We support each and every story of proud union members rising from the ashes to give their families a better life. Visit the Labor United website to become an involved member of our community and to learn more about union benefits.