Sometimes when you get a new job you are asked to become a member of the union. Everyone knows that a union is in place to protect employees. But you might not be aware of what specifically they are meant to protect you from and what they can help you with as a member. You will usually be required to pay dues to the union and you might want to make sure that it's worth it before you hand over a portion of your paycheck for working. Here are some of the basics about what a union is and what it's meant to do.
The first unions started during the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s and were related to the various trade guilds that existed at the time. Now, you will find unions for a smaller company of less than a thousand employees to huge organizations that bring together the workers of many different major companies. If you're working for a manufacturer or in the auto industry than you might want to first check if your union works independently or with other businesses.
The purpose of a union is to act as the representation and advocate for the employees of that firm. They are the counter to the decisions that are being made by the corporation and are meant to ensure that employees are always treated fairly and that everything within the business is legal. If you're working at a company there might come a time when management tries to reduce vacation time or make some policy changes. Your union will help to fight back if the employees decide that these new terms are unacceptable.
Because no situation within a business is black and white, the union's main job is usually to act as a negotiator with the company heads. If you're being offered a new contract and you disagree with some of the points than you will likely not get everything reversed when bringing in your union. They are meant to understand both the point of view of the employee and the financial obligations of that company to stay in business and serve the owners and shareholders. If they're hiring a new home builder to enter the real estate industry than they may need to restructure some of their operations. A union will look at the big picture.
Dues to a union are paid to help them fund their operations and help to compensate the union heads. If you're working in the city in a smaller business than you may know the people in charge of your union and need to pay relatively little. If you're part of a union like CAW than you may have to do some research to find out who is in charge.