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What are some pros and cons of joining a union?

I'm looking into joining a union for carpentry, I was wondering if anyone could tell me the pros and cons of starting in a union.#union

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Paul’s Answer

Hi Seth:

I have been in a union for part of my career and perhaps I can provide some insight regarding the positive and negative aspects of joining a union.


1. A union can provide you with employment protection
These days, it seems like employers and managers are attempting to release their workers for no cause. A union can help provide some protections in regards to terminations. Terminations are normally initiated for cause, but in the case of a union member, it must go through a procedure regarding an arbitration or a grievance procedure. You will normally be provided with a representative, who will assist you through this particular process. Legal fees and other costs are normally paid for by the union.

2. Union strive to get their members better wages and benefits
This is done through the collective bargaining process. So being part of a union can lead to increases in pay and better benefits in the long term.

3. Union are good for the economy and set standards for other companies
The unions can set national trends that impact the American workplace. This includes increased wages, safety standards for employees, agreements on overtime, and other work related and occupational standards.

4. Unions support political candidates and causes.
It is true that unions endorse many political candidates (Presidents and Congress etc...) and other societal causes. Their endorsements help keep politicians focused on them, and their particular work related issues, and the agenda of the union.


1. Unions require fees and payments
Yes, I had union dues removed from my monthly salary. Unions can either be an open or a closed shop. I was in a closed shop environment, so I had to pay fees to the union in order to work at the organization. The open shop does not require employees to pay fees to the union. Some employees might not like the work or the agenda the union is following, and feel the closed shop is unfair. As I recall, the union dues for me were around 2% of each paycheck. So it can have an impact on the pay you receive over the long term.

2. The union does not see you as an individual
Individuality is something which is discouraged by unions. So its either their way or no way. If you are really creative, it might not be something the union wants to see. You must be willing to follow what the union wants. Period.

3. It can be hard to promote and terminate workers
I have seen unions where problem employees are assigned to a room and sit there all day, basically doing nothing. This is because their grievances are slowly working their way through the system. Unions can make it very difficult to demote employees, and they can also make it difficult to promote very good ones. They like seniority, so if you have an employee, who can do another workers job ten times better, the senior employee will stay, while the other employee stays in the lower position or gets frustrated and eventually leaves.

4. Unions can be expensive and increase costs
Hiring union workers can increase the amount a company must spend. This is caused by legal costs, fees, rules and regulatory fees, and costs for negotiations. While the costs are a positive for the union member, in the long term they can cause long term budgetary issues within a company or an organization.

This is basically a general overview of the union, based on my past experience. I hope this has been helpful in regards to helping you make a decision. Good luck in your future career.


Paul recommends the following next steps:

Research the union and its background. See what various companies and organizations they work for and are involved in
Research the union dues. See if this is an expense you are willing to pay each month
Read the materials (including the fine print) about the union and see what kind of benefits they offer
See what political causes and agenda's they follow. Determine if this is what you believe and are willing to join.
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this is amazing! I really needed it. Seth
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Tirzah’s Answer

Hi Seth. Paul makes some great points. I have not been part of a union but my dad and mom were part of a union. My parents appreciated that many of their labor issues (uniforms, supervisor issues, pay) were brought forward by the union and the collective support and response helped them feel more heard than their individual voices but sometimes they felt like the union leaders were corrupted and paid off. I found this article which has lots of pros/cons to consider.

Tirzah recommends the following next steps:

Read some articles on the pros/cons based on the industry you are considering.
Watch free videos and testimonies from unionized workers online. If you search for 'Pros and Cons of unionized workers' on > Videos, this will provide an array of responses.