I’ve learned so much about unions listening to my peers during the Capstone presentations. While many may think that unions are outdated, many workplaces must still contend with them. So, what are unions and what benefit can a union bring to the workplace? Unions are organizations that represent groups of workers in various industries. Unions negotiate with employers on behalf of workers to improve wages, benefits, working conditions, and job security. Although unions can be advantageous, they can sometimes be a contentious influence in the workplace, with some employees and employers in conflict over union membership and demands. Nonetheless, unions play an important role in protecting workers’ rights and keeping corporate power in check.
So, why do unions still exist? The idea of unions being a solution to societal problems is commonly debated. Unions are typically formed in response to workers’ rights violations or wage disputes. Some argue though, that unions can also lead to stagnation in innovation and efficiency and may promote a culture of entitlement rather than accountability. In addition, unions may not be effective in all industries or situations. So, why are private sectors often opposed to unions? Managing a business can be challenging, especially when dealing with policies, procedures, and workforce management and adding the presence of a union reduces profitability. Unions can also pose a multitude of problems as courts allows for unions to post threats and vulgarities on social media and allow for unions to complain about work conditions without repercussion. The courts allow these posts under "protected speech" as long as they are not geared towards an individual or meant to incite immediate lawless action. Posts can be deemed wrong if they are maliciously false or profane. In addition, blog posts by unions may deceive employees by using enticing language that misrepresents the true intentions of the organization. This can lead to employees being attracted under false pretenses and may ultimately result in them being misled or disappointed. A major issue that employers argue is that unions and employers are not held to the same standard.
What does the future look like for unions? Union membership remains low at only 70%. Despite efforts, unions continue to struggle to gain traction and secure deals. Americans are favoring better pay and flexibility over joining unions and are hesitant to pay additional fees. This indicates that unions need to adjust their approach to meet the needs and demands of today’s workforce.
While unions were originally formed to combat pay inequality, they now serve as a means for all workers to advocate for their rights and better working conditions. Unions have seen an increase in petitions after the COVID-19 pandemic due to the exacerbation of workplace issues. The “Great Resignation” trend that started in 2019 has also contributed to younger individuals joining unions to have a voice and communicate their needs. The union provides a platform for younger workers to share their thoughts and ideas, and to establish a connection with top-level executives which also allows for a more collaborative environment.
What are differences of unions across the globe? There are notable differences in negotiation practices across countries. Unlike U.S. unions, European counterparts negotiate for all companies as a collective. In Mexico, negotiations are heavily influenced by the government, while in India, the caste system can impact workplace dynamics, while French unions are highly organized and often engage in strikes.
I’ve learned so much about unions thanks to my peers and I hope that others can also benefit from this knowledge as I share what I've learned about unions.