Skip to content

What Unions Have Done for You

Labor unions have had a resurgence since the covid pandemic. Headlines have described the historic transfer of wealth away from the working class, marking the beginning of what some outlets have called the second gilded age.

Free Man Welding Round Window Frame Stock Photo

Declining union membership rates throughout the decades has allowed the transfer of wealth to happen right before America’s eyes. The last time union membership was this low (10%) was during the Great Depression.

Regardless if you think working in foodservice doesn’t entitle you to a living wage, labor unions have fought for benefits that you enjoy. Without unions, the world would be much worse off, and we would not have the extensive benefits we all enjoy that came with a higher union membership density. If you care about issues like ending homelessness, the exploitation of local and overseas workers, and undemocratic policies upheld due to lobbied government officials, labor unions are your best tool for making an impact.


The benefits you enjoy

Not only do they address pervasive issues like the price of rent increasing or the stagnation of wages, but they can also have historically created many benefits we now see as normal.

Some of these include:

  • the 8 hour work day
  • maternity leave
  • the end of child labor
  • and the 5 day workweek.

Although in the US there is no guarantee for paid maternity leave, there is guaranteed unpaid maternity leave. The problem with this policy is that most people do not take the full 12 weeks because they have to pay bills.

A better standard

Because every collective bargaining agreement is unique to the employees needs and wants, workers can bargain for their specific interests. Employers can now match student loan payments as 401k matches to help workers retire. A union could negotiate this if the workers vote accordingly to have this as part of their collective bargaining agreement. One thing labor unions are good at doing is establishing a higher standard of benefits given to workers.

Free Crop anonymous diverse entrepreneurs shaking hands after meeting and negotiating about new project Stock Photo

Researchers found that a four day workweek resulted in happier and more productive employees. UAW president Shawn Fain advocated for a reduction in hours spent at work with no reduction in pay. “Since the industrial revolution, we have seen productivity skyrocket. With the advancement of technology, 1 worker is doing what 12 workers used to do." "84 years ago the 40 week was established, and since then, we've had a 400% increase in productivity, and nothing has changed.”

We mentioned this phenomenon in a previous blog: The union threat effect happens when a workplace decides to unionize and the nearby employers of similar businesses need to keep up with competitive wages and benefits. The same concept can be applied when looking at industry specific jobs regarding the normal benefits you see.

High union membership in a country can create new standards that workers demand in every job. France is a famous example where many people do not work one entire month out of the year. Many other countries guarantee paid maternity leave.

Your vital role

Many people no longer believe that hard work is rewarded in professional environments. Being the hardest worker means you will take on more responsibility. It could also make you and your boss think that your coworkers should work as hard as you do. More people are turning to unions to address the imbalance that work has in all of our lives. If you think you deserve more than working to live, consider seeking labor union representation. The standards we set for ourselves today could impact the benefits you receive by your retirement and the generations to come after you.

If you need help looking for which union should represent you, search the industry you work in followed by "union" or "labor union". For example: "Dining services labor union