About 15.4 million men and women are members of labor unions in the United States today.
Every kind of worker! Today's unions include manufacturing and construction workers, teachers, technicians and doctors—and every type of worker in between. No matter what you do for a living, there's a union that has members who do the same thing.
People join unions so they can work together and bargain together with their employer. On average, union workers’ wages are 30 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts and union members also enjoy the union advantage of better benefits, working conditions and a voice on the job about how the work gets done.
Unions are as important as they ever were—because corporations are just as dedicated to their bottom line, regardless of the consequences for workers. The nature of work in America is changing. Employers are trying to shed responsibilities—for providing health insurance, good pension coverage, reasonable work hours and job safety protections, for example—while making workers' jobs and incomes less secure through downsizing, part-timing and outsourcing. Working people need a voice at work to keep employers from making our jobs look like they did 100 years ago, with sweatshop conditions, unlivable wages and 70-hour workweeks.
Our hat is off to any employer who treats its workers with the respect and dignity they deserve. But let’s face it, in today’s economy mergers and acquisitions, buyouts and hostile takeovers are as common as weddings. If you are lucky enough to work for the same company for 10, 15 or 20 years it is likely to change ownership at least once during that period. An ironclad collective bargaining agreement will prevent someone new from coming in and “cleaning house” on a whim. Many workers also fail to realize that the owners of their company have little or nothing to do with the good or bad treatment they receive on a daily basis. Supervisors or managers can have a huge impact on an employee’s positive or negative feelings about his or her job. Those very supervisors or managers can be here today and gone tomorrow and so too can your job satisfaction. Collective bargaining agreements negotiated by a union are not as unpredictable.
The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 gave most U.S. workers the right to join or form unions. It did not include agricultural workers, railroad and airline workers or public employees, whose freedom to choose union membership is covered by other laws.
Under current labor law, joining a union is more difficult than it should be. Generally, when a majority of workers at a worksite signify they want a union (by signing cards or a petition), the National Labor Relations Board sets up an election. (The National Mediation Board does this for airline and railroad workers.) Too often, though, employers fight to block workers' freedom to choose a union.
Negotiating terms and conditions of a contract often requires weeks, sometimes months of give and take from both management and unions. When unions began growing more sophisticated in the ways of negotiating and American companies found themselves regularly making concessions on pivotal economic issues, corporate attorneys discovered that they could call upon their friends and allies in elected office to re-write the laws and remedy any issues that didn’t go their way at the bargaining table. But instead of complaining about the injustices around us, unions set out to find friends and allies of their own. And they succeeded. Unions never get everything on their agenda enacted into law. Who does? But today, they are no longer shut out of the process.
Political activities are paid for by voluntary donations from union members. Local 324 has the Active Ballot Club for that very purpose and regularly requests that members donate a mere 25 cents a week to support it.
Many national unions, central labor councils and state federations endorse candidates for office and let their members know why they believe the endorsed candidates would do the best job for working families. Local 324 goes one or two steps further by listing candidates and their stands on issues that directly impact our members. Think about it this way: if one candidate for office wants to destroy your union and his or her opponent wants to strengthen it, wouldn’t it be irresponsible of Local 324 NOT to tell you about it. No one can tell union members how to vote—that's up to each individual. Making suggestions on the topic is part of the democratic process.