Getting a Union Job in 2019: Expectations Vs. Realities

Sean Ahern
Posted by in Career Advice

There’s strength in numbers, so for those seeking more control over their career, a union job may be the right fit. Belonging to a strong team of workers in your field surely grants you several benefits as well as a strong sense of security, but keep in mind, you’ll need to follow the rules that result in the overall benefit of the whole team. Let’s take a look at both sides of the coin.

As a union worker, you can expect to make more money than the average non-union employee in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage of a union worker is approximately $200 higher per week than that of a non-union worker. This can be attributed to the fearsome bargaining power of unions; because of their size, they’re able to negotiate higher wages. Additionally, union workers also have access to more benefits than non-union workers. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the number of workers who receive medical benefits is 24% higher than that of non-union workers.

Union workers also cannot be fired as easily as non-union workers. Consequently, as a union worker, you wouldn’t have to fear any backlash from being a Team Jacob supporter when your boss is clearly an adamant Team Edward advocate. Stick with me and this Twilight reference. This is because upon hiring a union worker, an employment contract is written stating that “just cause” is required for termination. According to, there are certain stipulations that must be met in order to substantiate the principle of “just cause”. These stipulations include adequately warning a worker of misconduct, investigating the offense thoroughly, and applying penalties without discrimination among many other conditions.

Additionally, seniority is highly valued in the event of unavoidable layoffs, meaning that the workers who have been around the longest will be the last to go. Remaining loyal to one job usually means less money than those who job-hop every couple of years in order to experience salary increases, but in this situation, you’d be rewarded for your continued dedication.

Clearly, union workers experience many benefits as a result of their numbers and bargaining abilities, but as Peter Parker’s wise uncle once said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” You’ll have to play by the rules of the team in order to further the progress of the union as a whole through your own actions. This means that your power comes with a slight lack of control. For example, if a union decides that every worker must stop working during a strike, you’ll obviously have to stop working as well. This could prove problematic if the strike lasts much longer than expected and you’re in need of a consistent paycheck. On top of this lack of autonomy, you may also run into additional setbacks, such as union fees that could offset your higher wages. The principle of seniority may also work against you if you’re a new employee with a great work ethic, as union members who have been employed for a shorter time will be the first to lose their jobs in the event of a layoff.



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