To join a union or not to join a union – that is the question.

Nancy Anderson
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Over the last month, Temple University Hospital has dealt with both nurses and technical professionals walking the picket lines seeking better conditions both for themselves and their patients.  How did they get away with this action?  They unionized!  What were the results?  Well, let’s see: the union representatives’ contracts for both the nurses and technical professionals will expire at the same time.  This is good in that they can continue to bargain together and strike together down the road – if needed.  They won tuition reimbursement for their dependents – but only if they attend Temple University.  They also won small wage increases.  However, even though Temple agreed to phase it in over the next year, their healthcare coverage increased.  Maybe the greatest win from this strike was that the “gag” order was removed.  What this means is that the nurses can continue to fight for the correct nurse/patient ratio and are able to actually speak about it without fear of losing their positions.

This was a great victory for the nurses and technical staff of Temple University but it also raised the question – “to join a union or not to join a union”.  Thinking about this led me to look at some of the pros and cons of unionizing.

Respect on the job.
Can create hostile environments.
Better wages & benefits.
Wages are often inflated limiting the number of employees.
Better work and family benefits.
Due to the higher benefits, it limits the number of employees a company can hire.
Counterbalance to the powers of employers.
Pit employees against employers in a way that can be
Having a voice in quality improvement.
Because of the cost involved with having unions, some employers outsource thus ending up with a lesser quality product.
Equal treatment across the board.
Strikes can make union members look greedy – especially if they are already receiving higher pay than their non-union counterparts.
Protection against being wrongly dismissed.
Protects incompetent workers who would otherwise be dismissed for cause.
Ability to strike.
Strikes can be long-term and cause negative backlash for companies.
Provides job security.
It can be difficult to get into a union thus keeping the “it’s not what you know but who you know” networking alive.

The above are just a few of the pros/cons for unions.  So, if you are looking for a job, you need to consider the pros and the cons.  Do not just look at the fact that you might make more money than a non-union counterpart.  Remember, if there is a strike, whether you agree or not with the reasons, you are on strike.  Strikes can be good but they can also be detrimental to the future of the company.  What good does it do to be in a union and strike for better conditions only to have your company go out of business because they cannot afford to meet your demands? 

In the case of Temple University Hospital, maybe it had a good ending but maybe it did not.  What happens when the demands on the hospital are greater than can be met by the current staffing but the hospital cannot afford to hire more nurses because the union lobbied for an increase in salary?  You be the judge.

- Nancy Anderson, Blog Writer

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