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Is it difficult to get into a labor union directly out of high-school?

I am interested in joining a union rather than attending college. #labor #union-labor

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Jim’s Answer

Hi Matt,


It depends on what job you take. If you go to a local union grocery store such as Stop & Shop, you can join the UFCW quite quickly. Same goes for getting a job in a big union hotel, where you can become a member of the Unite HERE union quickly. It is also less difficult to become a member of the AFSCME - state and local government unions, like for police and fire. However, for many jobs like police officers and fire fighting you have to attend the state police academy or graduate from state fire fighting training which could be worth considering - as those are significant barriers to entry and provide greater job security and higher wages.


It is more difficult to become a member of industrial unions like the UAW (United Auto Workers) - as jobs in automotive assembly, steel, and the like are far more rare.


It is important to figure out what you want to do - while it is much quicker and easier to become a grocery store cashier or deli clerk, it pays significantly more to receive training to become a union pipe-fitter, brick-layer, or police officer.


What would you like to do? Do you want to work indoors or outdoors? Do you want to interact with the public or install fire sprinklers? Do you want to be in public service or work for a company? Do you want more or less training before starting a job? Think about these questions to figure out what types of jobs you'll be interested in and try something when you graduate.


Get back to me with any follow-up questions and I'll do my best to answer them -

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Melissa’s Answer

Hi Matt,


There are a huge number of unions in a huge number of different fields. Some, as mentioned above, are related to unskilled positions such as grocery store clerks and baggers or service personnel in the hospitality industry. Other unions, the kind we typically think of when we think about unions, are associated with skilled positions: electricians, pipe fitters, etc. There are even unions that have members in retail and academic positions. In determining what kind of union you're interested in, you really should think about what kind of work you'd enjoy. Generally once you find a position you'd like, you'll either be told you need to join a union or you'll be asked if you'd like to join the union depending on the state you're in and its labor legislation. So the hard part isn't getting into a labor union, it may be in finding the position.


Are you interested in an apprenticeship in lieu of advanced education? The Department of Labor has some great resources on identifying apprenticeship opportunities: https://www.dol.gov/apprenticeship/. If you already have an idea of what type of work or which union you'd like to be involved in, I'd recommend using your networking skills. Often current union members in skilled trade unions can sponsor you to seek an apprenticeship.


Really, it comes down to the type of work you'd like to do - once you determine that, you can reach out to the union associated with that field. They should be able to provide you with information on apprenticeships that are available.


Good luck!

Melissa recommends the following next steps:

Determine what field you are interested in
Research the field & associated labor unions
Reach out to the union for that field to discuss apprenticeship opportunities
Or go to DOL Apprenticeship website to research general apprenticeship options
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Keith’s Answer

Right now I think most labor unions are looking for people to join. You're best chance is to start calling them and see what you need to do to join. Also ask them what job involves and see what you think you will enjoy don't just worry about wages remember you will be doing this for a long time and need to like what you are doing.
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