By lobbying for better working conditions, employee/employer relations, and fair wages, labor unions strive to protect the welfare of working class individuals. With the goal of making work environments fair for their employees, labor unions push forward for progress, fighting for the rights of working class individuals who may not have voices of their own. An individual lobbying for an overdue raise may feel intimidated in front of an employer, backing down for fear of losing his job or drawing undue ire. Labor unions exist to take the pressure off the employees, serving as third parties and go-betweens to help working class individuals fight for their rights in their respective places of work.
Most employees will agree that working under labor unions provides security and job protection. Employers reserve the right to bargain with unions and initiate negotiations to persuade their employees to avoid unionizing, but many employees appreciate the security they receive from their unions and remain with them accordingly. However, it is important to remember that employees must contribute to their unions to protect themselves. Furthermore, unions can occasionally bring more harm than good. To understand labor unions and how individuals may receive them, it is important to examine both sides of the situation to uncover the pros and cons of keeping and operating under labor unions.
One of the most gleaming attributes of a labor union is the protection of a group. A labor union provides a wall of support in the form of paid staff and volunteers who fight for the rights of hard-working employees. A common complaint among employees is money, and labor unions lobby to fight for overdue raises by putting the pressure on employers. In 2011, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations reported that union workers made an average of 30% more than workers who did not belong to any union, making them some of the best paid individuals in the working class.
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In addition to helping provide better pay for the working class, labor unions make employees more aware of their rights as workers. Not every individual who wanders onto a job is fully aware of all the rights and privileges that come with the position. For example, a greedy employer may try to exploit employees by denying them appropriately timed breaks in stressful work environments, and many employees will tolerate the abuse for fear of losing their jobs. Labor unions exist to protect employees from this kind of abuse by informing them of their legal rights. Furthermore, labor unions will make employers liable in the event of injury or illness because of workplace abuse or neglect.
Nonetheless, the power of a labor union can also present considerably large drawbacks. Labor unions have the power to press employers for raises, but their zeal may be misplaced. Fighting for the working class is one thing, but pushing an employer for an unrealistic pay raise is another. Some companies simply do not have the money to spend on salary bumps, but pressure from labor unions can force them into submission, and the pressure a labor union places behind an employer does not only affect the company.
By forcing a company to provide pay raises, the cost of productivity goes up, and the difference comes directly out of the consumers’ pockets. This is often referred to as the “trickle down” effect. If Company X must pay its employees unrealistic wages because of pressure from a labor union, Company X must raise the cost of Product Y to balance the books, causing the cost of the salary bump to “trickle down” to consumers.
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Pushing for unrealistic wages is only one way that labor unions can exploit their power. Unions have influence over companies, and they can become very greedy. This greediness can lead to a lack of trust between an employee and his employer, contributing to a hostile work environment. This is not to say that employees should avoid joining unions for fear of creating distrust between themselves and their employers. Nonetheless, it is important for employees to know that although unions can bring job security and protection, they can also bring distrust and controversy to work environments.
Labor unions have power, and they know how to use it. By pushing for equal opportunity workplaces and safe work environments, labor unions can help employees to know their rights and receive fair treatment. However, they can also push employers too far and give the wrong impression. Not every employee requires union representation. For this reason, employees may want to examine their work environments carefully and decide whether or not they require protection from labor unions. In more stressful, risky work environments, unions may be useful, but individuals with less demanding jobs may want to steer clear of labor unions and eliminate the clutter.