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The Union Advantage

If you don’t have a union in your workplace, you don’t have guaranteed wages, health benefits or a secure pension. You are an “at-will” employee. You check your rights at the door, and your employer can fire you or change your conditions of employment at any time and for almost any reason.

There are real advantages to having a union for you as an individual and for society in general. By forming a union with your co-workers, together you will have the strength to negotiate a legally binding contract with your employer that includes better wages, affordable health care, a secure retirement and a safer workplace.

The Union Difference

The majority of workers in the United States have a legally protected right to join a labor union. Private sector employees have those rights through the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and enforced by the National Labor Relations Board, an agency of the Federal Government. Under the NLRA, workers cannot be terminated or subject to retaliation from employers for joining or forming a union. 

           There are many reasons to organize, here are just a few:

1. Higher Wages and Economic Equality

Union members earn an average 11.2% more in wages than non-union workers – and that’s just the average. Some union workers earn much more than their non-union counterparts. In 2019, the median weekly income for full-time wage and salary union workers was $1,095 while the median weekly salary for non-union workers was $892. Using the median figures, union workers earned about 18.5% more per week, or $10,556 each year.

Unions help reduce income inequality for demographics who have historically earned less, such as Black and Latino workers and women. Using the same median weekly wage data:

Black union workers earn 21.1% more than Black non-union workers.

Latinx union workers earn 26% more than their non-union peers.

Female union workers earn 21.1% more than non-union women.

It is important to remember that these comparisons are made between workers who work in the same industry and occupations with similar education and experience. That is the Union Difference.

Union membership directly improves the livelihoods of individual workers, but it also impacts our economy as a whole. If more working families earn a higher income, they can afford goods produced, transported, and sold by companies who treat employees well (such as union companies), thus promoting a higher standard of living for all.

2. Access to Health Care Benefits

Health care benefits are imperative for every family, which is why Teamsters work incredibly hard to negotiate superior health insurance into labor agreements. Thanks to Unions, 94% of Union workers have access to health care benefits through their place of employment. Only 67% of nonunion workers have access to these benefits through their place of work.

Along with having access to health and welfare, Union members are more likely to pay much less for their health care monthly premiums for better insurance plans.

3. Retirement Benefits

Unions fight to win their members a fair return on the value of their work. Along with livable wages and health care benefits, Unions feel a “fair return” also includes retirement benefits. Who wants to work for decades but have nothing to show for it when they retire? Not Teamsters! As of March 2019, 94% of union workers had access to retirement benefits through their employer, compared to only 67% of nonunion workers.

Union workers are also much more likely to have a defined benefit plan, or pension (a lifetime benefit), rather than a 401k. This is significant because a pension plan is funded by the employer, while a 401k is primarily funded by the employee.

4. Paid Vacation and Holiday Time

Union membership provides for more work-life balance. Unions fought for a shorter workweek in the 20th century, ultimately resulting in the “weekend” that many of us enjoy. Today, Unions bargain for more paid time off. According to the March 2020 Economic News Release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 91% of Union workers have access to paid vacation time and holidays, and are permitted more vacation days than nonunion workers. Only 78% of nonunion workers are allowed paid time off.

5. Collective Bargaining

There is strength in numbers, especially when it comes to collective bargaining. Robust membership builds power to win stronger contracts that benefit all members and their families, along with setting higher standards for nonunion companies. Teamster members are invited to regular membership meetings which provide an opportunity to stay abreast of current issues and share their opinion. It is up to the membership to vote on their own labor agreement achieving improvements in the workplace. These can range from securing wage increases to better access to health care and workplace safety enhancements to bargaining for more predictable hours, and more.

6. Workplace Safety

Teamsters take pride in winning safer working conditions and thorough training for themselves and all members. Employers are required to provide a workplace free of recognized health and safety hazards. You have the right to file complaints with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to bring job safety hazards to your employer’s attention without retaliation and to get information from your employer about hazardous workplace exposures.

Unionized workers are more likely to speak out about mistreatment and safety violations because they do not have to fear retaliation from the company. They are able to file official grievances if they feel the company has broken any part of the Labor Agreement, and they are more likely to understand their rights in the workplace.

Teamsters also fight for a workplace without sexual harassment. It is illegal to be forced to agree to sexual favors to keep your job or get a promotion or job benefit. It also is illegal to be subjected to severe and pervasive comments or behavior at your workplace that creates a hostile work environment.

7. Job Security

Unions protect jobs – it’s as simple as that. Teamsters and other unions alike ensure that their members have job security; they do not need to fear discrimination or unfair termination. This also reduces labor turnover, which improves workplace moral as well as safety and productivity. 

Unions also protect jobs by opposing legislation and technology which would destroy well-paying jobs.

8. A Workplace Without Discrimination

No employer can discriminate in hiring, firing, pay or promotions based on:

  • Age—The law protects workers 40 and older.

  • Disability—Employers must make reasonable accommodations for an otherwise qualified person with a disability to do his or her job.

  • Gender.

  • Pregnancy.

  • Race, color, ethnicity or national origin.

  • Religion.

  • Immigrant status—It is illegal to refuse to hire someone because of an accent or because that person was born in a foreign country. Employers have a duty to verify that every worker hired is authorized to work, but it is illegal to assume that a worker is undocumented just because he or she has a foreign name, speaks with an accent or was born in another country.

9. Fighting Corporate Greed

While billionaires are racing to space, Unions have boots on the ground fighting to ensure employers value people over profits. Whether it’s lobbying for legislation to prohibit the misclassification of workers and amending the NLRA to be more inclusive, or mandating health and safety policies and bargaining strong contracts for their current members, Unions put working families first. It is much cheaper for companies to cut corners, ask workers to work harder and faster for longer hours, and claim that employees are independent contractors to avoid paying for benefits, but Unions see this over and over again and strive to hold companies accountable.

10. Brotherhood

The Teamsters are a brotherhood that fight for their members on and off the job. They don’t stop at negotiating economic advantages for their members, they go above and beyond to support their community. Time and time again, after floods, tornados, ice storms, hurricanes, and wildfires, Teamsters send relief and donations to their brothers and sisters who have been impacted by disaster.

Teamsters all across the nation hold fundraising events for countless charities within their communities. There are hundreds of scholarships available to Teamster teens to aid with the financial burden of seeking higher education. Teamsters fight for the things that will bring communities together, such as social justice, and against the things that tear communities apart, like the opioid epidemic. If it’s for the good of the people, the Teamsters are there.

Deciding to form a union with your co-workers is a rewarding experience. We understand the process and have guided many in successful efforts. Teamster Organizers will help you understand your rights and navigate through the organizing process. From our many years of experience, we know what to expect from your employer – we can predict how they will react to a unionizing effort and can help you prepare for it. You have the legal right to join or support a union and negotiate contracts with your employer. You have the right to decide for yourself whether you want union representation, free from employer intimidation and interference.

Page Last Updated: Aug 15, 2023 (05:48:53)
Teamsters Local 317
566 Spencer Street
Syracuse, NY 13204

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