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The Benefits of a Labor Union to an Employee

No matter who you are or in which US state you live, one necessary thing that you surely desire is a stable, good-paying job. Well, there are many others, of course, like a 40-hour work week, overtime pay and paid vacation, but job stability still ranks first.

The many changes in the job sector, however, are obviously not pointing towards the fulfillment of such desire as more and more employers (all across the US) are beginning to adopt the “employment at will” doctrine, which gives them the legal power to dismiss an employee even without good reason, as well as find ways that will minimize their duty to providing employees with good pension coverage, health insurance and/or a safe and healthy working environment. And by sending more jobs off-shore, contracting out jobs, hiring more part-time, contractual or project-based workers, and regular down-sizing, job instability only continues to rise – all for the purpose of gaining bigger profits (often) at the expense of the workers/employees.

Believe it or not, the sad plight of workers was a very common sight too during the 19th and (early) 20th centuries. And if it were not for the unions that workers formed during those days, it will be hard to even think about the conditions workers may be in today.

Unions are essential because these help improve the lives of workers and their families; but more than just this, unions greatly contribute to the nation’s economic growth and help guarantee solvency of a business firm through lower employee turnover, higher productivity, a better-trained and more competitive workforce, improved communication in the workplace, quality of product and service, and health and safety in the workplace.

The first union in the US was the National Labor Union (NLU), founded in 1866, followed by Knights of Labor in 1869. The most famous, though, was the one formed in 1886 – American Federation of Labor (AFL). It was the AFL that was successful in negotiating an increase in the wage of its members and in enhancing safety in the workplace. Based on the 2010 report of the Bureau of Labor Statistic, there are now more than 60 unions representing more than 14 million employees in the United States, people employed as nurses, engineers, IT/computer professionals, police officers, teachers, writers, government workers, airline pilots, mechanics, doctors, construction workers, pharmacists, office workers, actors, plumbers, factory workers, and so many other types of work.

Besides helping ensure fair treatment in any working environment, unions also provide a seeming endless list of benefits to all its members, like a wage that is 30% higher than non-union members, discounts in so many establishments and to many types of services. Furthermore, because of unions, workers and employees now enjoy: at least the state-determined minimum wage, 8-hour work day, weekends without work, sick leave, paid vacation, anti- discrimination laws, lunch breaks and other breaks at work, social security, workers’ compensation, holiday pay, employer health care insurance, overtime pay, pensions, compensation increases and evaluations, employer dental, life, and vision insurance, the right to strike, unemployment insurance, wrongful termination laws, whistleblower protection laws, and a whole lot more.

Due to the fact that unions are often engaged in legal matters for the care of its members and its successful operations, the law firm of Cary Kane LLP mentions (in its website) the importance of having a legal counselor, who is highly-competitive in employment law, especially in matters concerning arbitration and unfair labor practice proceedings, dealing with governmental agencies, such as the DOL, litigation at the federal and state level, negotiating and managing collective bargaining agreements, and so forth.