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What Unions Do

  • Respect on the job? Check.
  • Fairness. Check.
  • Training opportunities? Check.
  • A voice at work? Check.

Unions are about a simple proposition: By joining together, working women and men gain strength in numbers so they can have a voice at work about what they care about. They negotiate a contract with their employer for things like a fair and safe workplace, better wages, a secure retirement and family-friendly policies such as paid sick leave and scheduling hours. They have a voice in how their jobs get done, creating a more stable, productive workforce that provides better services and products. Always adapting to the challenges of our nation’s evolving workforce, unions are meeting the needs of workers in today’s flexible and nontraditional work environments. Because no matter what type of job workers are in, by building power in unions, they can speak out for fairness for all working people in their communities and create better standards and a strong middle class across the country.

THE UNION DIFFERENCE

Union members earn better wages and benefits than workers who aren’t union members. On average, union workers’ wages are 27 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts.

Unionized workers are 54 percent more likely to have employer-provided pensions.

More than 83 percent of union workers have jobs that provide health insurance benefits, but only 62 percent of nonunion workers do. Unions help employers create a more stable, productive workforce—where workers have a say in improving their jobs.

Unions help bring workers out of poverty and into the middle class. In fact, in states where workers don’t have union rights, workers’ incomes are lower.

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WHO ARE UNION MEMBERS?

There are over 60 unions representing over 14 million workers throughout the country.

No matter what work you do, there’s a union that represents your work. Teachers and miners, firefighters and farm workers, bakers and engineers, pilots and public employees, doctors and nurses, patients and plumbers, bus drivers, office workers and computer professionals are all union members.

BENEFITS OF BELONGING TO A UNION

One of the big reasons workers join a union is to ensure fair treatment in the workplace.  As a union member, you have a collective voice regarding:

  • pay & wages,
  • work hours,
  • benefits – including retirement plans, health insurance, vacation and sick leave, tuition reimbursement, etc.,
    • working conditions,
    • workplace health and safety,
    • ways to balance work and family,​
      • the best ways to get work completed,
      • and other work-related issues.

Another advantage of belonging to a union is that members earn 30% more than non-union workers.  And if you’re a union worker, you are also much more likely to have health and pension benefits.

In addition, unions give workers like you a strong collective voice that’s heard in government. Unions represent workers in talks with lawmakers, and remind politicians that working families voted them into office.

Some of the benefits – like the weekend – that workers take for granted today were initially provided by unions.

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HOW DO UNIONS WORK?

labor or trade union is an organization of workers dedicated to protecting members’ interests and improving wages, hours and working conditions for all. No matter what you do for a living, there’s a union with members who do the same thing. Unions represent:

  • police & security officers,​
    • teachers,
    • factory workers,
    • office workers,
    • actors,
    • musicians,
      • construction workers,
      • airline pilots,
      • janitors,
      • plumbers,
      • doctors & nurses,
      • pharmacists,​
        • IT/computer professionals,
        • government workers at all levels,
        • engineers & mechanics
        • writers,
        • and many more types of workers.

HERE’S HOW UNIONS WORK TO MAKE AMERICA STRONG

Unions work like a democracy. They hold elections for officers who make decisions on behalf of members.

A local union is a locally-based group of workers.  A local may include workers from the same company or region. It may also have workers from the same business sector, employed by different companies.

Did you know there are over 60 national/international unions that represent millions of workers across America and Canada? It starts with the formation of a bargaining unit. This is a group represented by a union for dealing with an employer. This group of workers must either be voluntarily recognized by their employer, or a majority of workers in the bargaining unit must vote for representation.

It is legal for employers to try to persuade employees not to unionize. However, it is illegal for an employer to prevent employees from unionizing through threats, violence, and other coercive action. It is also illegal for unions to use lies or threats of violence to intimidate employees into joining.

  1. An employer is required by law to bargain in good faith with a union, although an employer is not required to agree to any particular terms. Once an agreement is reached through negotiations, a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is signed. A CBA is a negotiated agreement between a labor union and an employer that sets terms of employment for members of that union including wages, hours, conditions, vacation, sick days, and benefits.
  2. After a CBA is signed, an employer can’t change details of the agreement without the union representative’s approval. The CBA lasts for a set period of time with the union monitoring to assure the employer abides by the contract. If a union believes an employer has breached the CBA, the union can file a grievance, which may be resolved through arbitration.
  3. As with many other organizations, union costs are paid by member dues that typically cost about $50 a month. Most unions have paid staff to manage their operations. While some staff may be paid by union dues, members also often volunteer.

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COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

Collective bargaining is the process in which working people, through their unions, negotiate contracts with their employers to determine their terms of employment, including pay, benefits, hours, leave, job health and safety policies, ways to balance work and family and more. Collective bargaining is a way to solve workplace problems.

After the rights of public employees to collectively bargain for a middle-class life came under attack in 2010, working people in all kinds of jobs as well as students, community supporters, faith leaders and others united to defend this basic right.

The United States has long lagged behind other industrialized nations in collective bargaining coverage for public- and private-sector workers. Yet the right to collectively bargain is essential so that working men and women have the strength to improve their living standards, provide for their families and build a strong middle class.

YOUR RIGHTS AT WORK

Working people in America have certain basic legal rights to safe, healthy and fair conditions at work. But many employers—perhaps yours—violate these fundamental rights because they value their profits more than their workers.  For example, you have rights related to:

  • Age
  • Agricultural Workers
  • Denied Paid Overtime
  • Disability
  • Fair Labor Standards Act
  • Family and Medical Leave
  • Gender Discrimination
  • Genetic Information
    • Hurt on the Job
    • Misclassified as an Independent Contractor
    • Pregnancy
    • Punished for Supporting a Union
    • Race or Ethnicity
    • Religion
    • Retaliation for Filing a Complaint
    • Sexual Orientation
      • Sexually Harassed
      • Terminated or Laid Off the Job
      • Unemployment Benefits
      • Unsafe/Unhealthy Job Conditions
      • U.S. Reservist
      • Wage Garnishment
      • Wage Theft
      • Youth Employment

WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF LABOR UNIONS?

The origin of labor unions dates back to the eighteenth century and the industrial revolution in Europe. During this time there was a huge surge of new workers into the workplace that needed representation.

In the United States history of unions, early workers and trade unions played an important part in the role for independence. Although their physical efforts for the cause of independence were ineffective, the ideas they introduced, such as protection for workers, became part of our American culture.

LABOR UNION HISTORY IN THE U.S. BEGAN IN THE 19TH CENTURY

The history of unions in the United States exploded in the nineteenth century with the founding of the National Labor Union (NLU) in 1866. Unlike today’s unions, the NLU was not exclusive to a particular type of worker. And although the NLU crumbled without making significant gains in establishing workers’ rights, its founding set an important precedent in our country.

Soon after, the Knights of Labor emerged in 1869. This group’s membership peaked at about 700,000 and its efforts were focused on addressing key issues such opposition to child labor and demands for an eight-hour day.

36 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD THANK A UNION

DID YOU KNOW THAT LABOR UNIONS MADE THE FOLLOWING 36 THINGS POSSIBLE?

  1. Weekends without work
  2. All breaks at work, including your lunch breaks
  3. Paid vacation
  4. Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  5. Sick leave
  6. Social Security
  7. Minimum wage
  8. Civil Rights Act/Title VII – prohibits employer discrimination
  9. 8-hour work day
  10. Overtime pay
  11. Child labor laws
  12. Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
  13. 40-hour work week
  14. Workers’ compensation (workers’ comp)
  15. Unemployment insurance
  16. Pensions
  17. Workplace safety standards and regulations
  18. Employer health care insurance
  19. Collective bargaining rights for employees
  20. Wrongful termination laws
  21. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
  22. Whistleblower protection laws
  23. Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) – prohibits employers from using a lie detector test on an employee
  24. Veteran’s Employment and Training Services (VETS)
  25. Compensation increases and evaluations (i.e. raises)
  26. Sexual harassment laws
  27. Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
  28. Holiday pay
  29. Employer dental, life, and vision insurance
  30. Privacy rights
  31. Pregnancy and parental leave
  32. Military leave
  33. The right to strike
  34. Public education for children
  35. Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 – requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work
  36. Laws ending sweatshops in the United States
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