For someone just entering the workforce, unionization is less of a concern than it is for someone who does skilled or trades work. In that case, the question of whether or not to join the union always crops up eventually. Traditionally the unions have always been a source of pride for the workers, but lately some controversy has been cropping up over whether the unions are really working in the employees' best interests. If you're trying to make a decision, here are some advantages and disadvantages of being in a union.
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The purpose of a union is to give workers some clout. In the old days, factory owners had all the power. They could fire workers if they refused to do something dangerous and pay their employees less than they were worth. Then came unions. As a union member, you're guaranteed a certain salary which is usually higher than a non-union employee. You also have access to benefits, such as pensions and medical insurance.
Unions are also responsible for conducting negotiations with the employer and setting out how long work days can be and what employees responsibilities are. With the power of collective bargaining, unionized employees are often able to win shorter hours, better safety conditions, more overtime pay, and guaranteed severance packages for laid off employees from the business their employees work for.
Though unions do a lot for members, they also ask a lot of their members as well. If you're in a union, you can expect to be asked to pay dues which will go toward paying the members who do most of the negotiating with the brokers and organizing events. You will also likely have to attend meetings and vote on different initiatives and offers suggested by the union or the employers. If the union votes to strike, you must strike as well, even if you voted against it.
Another disadvantage some unionized employees find is that once they join a union, certain jobs are no longer open to them. A business owner with a small clinic may not want to go though the extra hassle and expense of hiring a union employee, so he may consider non-union applicants only. Similarly, companies looking to avoid dealing with unions may move their entire operation to an area without them, like China, leaving you without a job.