There are unions in almost every conventional industry. From manufacturing to banking, retail to aviation, there are labor unions that represent the employees or workers while acting as a bridge between the labor force and the management. Unions were once seen as a facilitator of labor rights but they play a key role in management as well. In some countries, unions are heavily one-sided, only taking into consideration rights of the employees. In United States, unions are largely rational and they don’t take sides without substantiated and rational causes. But there have been issues where unions have been held responsible for creating problems and also been proven to be lobbying for interests of a few instead of the masses that they represent.
There are many unions pros and cons. If one looks at labor unions from the socialist or communist point of view, then there are very little advantages as the unions tend to take the economy backwards. But in a country like the United States, where socialism and communism don’t exist in their true sense and definition, unions attend to very important functions. From facilitating negotiations on minimum wages to highlighting pressing concerns affecting the employees, from negotiations on employee benefits to a large number of factors that affect the working experience of everyone in an organization, unions can facilitate almost everything that are good for the employees and also helpful for the organization in many ways.
List of Pros of Unions
1. Unions help in containing attrition. When employees are unhappy, they start to hate their job and look for a way out. Given a way out, they would leave. With unions in place, the employees can get some help and get their disgruntlement addressed. Unions tend to the working environment in offices, factories, stores and in all facets of a company’s operations, striving to make things better all the time. This often ensures that employees are happy. When workers are happy, they are unlikely to leave.
2. Labor unions play a role in productivity. If employees are happy, if they are well represented and if their welfare is looked after, then they would perform better. Labor unions tend to ensure that the workers don’t have a reason to underperform or not perform at all. Unions also negotiate timely pay hikes, change in benefits schemes and facilitate overall satiation of the employees.
3. Unions have the power to negotiate better wages and benefits, which otherwise would be elusive for the workers. There are organizations having strong unions and the beneficiaries have been the employees. Collective bargaining, which is what unions do, is always more effective than doing so all alone.
4. Unions often ensure that there is no discrimination based on gender, race, religion or any other grounds. If unions have a policy that there would be no discrimination, then the organization can actually be an equal opportunity employer and workers would be treated as people and according to their roles in the organization and not on the basis of their ethnic background, religion or gender.
5. The unions work on almost everything concerning workers and also the organization. It doesn’t always take the message of the workers to the management. It also facilitates communication from the management to the workers, thus facilitating a well formed bridge of communication. Companies often use the trusted leaders of unions to communicate bad news or unfavorable updates to employees. Should those updates come from the senior executives or owners, there can be adverse fallout’s which can be prevented by the heads of unions.
6. Unions monitor hours of work, incentives, overtime pay, insurance, provident fees, maternity leaves, compensation for loss and holidays among others. Employee concerns are genuinely taken care of without the bureaucracy within an organization interfering in anything. However, with large unions, the union itself becomes bureaucratic.
List of Cons of Unions
1. Unions can often be expensive. They may have a high membership fee and they may demand a certain budget from the company. In either case, it is the employees and the employers who have to shell out the money, something that doesn’t always become desirable for all and sundry.
2. Unions have the power to boost productivity. Thus, they also have the power to facilitate unproductiveness. Unions can call strikes, arm-twist the owners or the management of a company by the virtue of piggybacking on the manpower and there can be mass scale attrition.
3. Consistent demands or unjust demands of unions have often led to businesses going kaput. If unions are not pragmatic, then the business is doomed.
4. Unions can often become a coterie. Promotions, welfare, benefits and all perks of labor unions may get unevenly shared. Only some people who are within that inner circle may get most of the perks while normal workers may not get benefited at all or equally benefited.