Should You Join a Union .

Someday you may face the decision about whether to vote for or against a union in your workplace The following article discusses some issues you might consider.

On Payday, Union Jobs Stack Up Very Well

With the teamsters’ success in their two-week strike against United Parcel Service, and with the A.F.L.-C.I.O. training thousands of union organizers in a drive to reverse a quarter-century of declining membership, millions of workers will be asked over the next few years whether they want a union to represent them. It is a complicated question, the answer to which rests on a jumble of determinations: Do you favor collective action or individual initiative? Do you trust the union’s leaders? Do you want somebody else speaking for you in dealings with your employer? Do you think you will be dismissed if you sign a union card-s-or that the company will send your job overseas if a union is organized But in one regard, the choice is simple-and it is not the choice that most workers have made during the labor movement’s recent decades in the economic wilderness From a pocket book perspective, workers are absolutely better off joining a union. Economists across the political spectrum agree. Turning a nonunion job into a union job very likely will have a bigger effect on lifetime finances than all the advice employees will ever read about in vest in their 401(k) plans, buying a home or otherwise making more of what they earn.

Here is how the equation works, said Prof. Richard B. Freeman of Harvard University For an existing worker in a firm, if you can carry out an organizing drive, it is all to your benefit. If there are going to be losers, they are people who might have gotten a job in the future, the shareholders whose profits will go down, the managers because there will be less profit to distribute to them in pay and, maybe, consumers will pay a little more for the product. But as a worker, it is awfully hard to see why you wouldn’t want a union.” Over all, union workers are paid about 20 percent more than nonunion workers, and their fringe benefits are typically worth two to four times as much, economists with a wide array of views have found. The financial advantage is even greater for workers with little formal education and training and for women, blacks, and Hispanic workers. Moreover, 85 percent of union members have health insurance, compared with 57 percent of nonunion workers, said Barry Blue stone, a labor-friendly economics professor at the University of Massachusetts. The conclusion draws no argument even from Prof. Leo Troy of Rutgers University, who is widely known in academic circles and among union leaders for his hostility to organized labor. “From a standpoint of wages and , fringe benefits,” Professor Troy said, “the answer is yes, you arc better off in a union.” His objections to unions concern how they reduce profits for owners and distort investment decisions in ways that slow the overall growth of the economy-not how they affect workers who bargain collectively. Professor Troy points out that he belongs to a union himself-the American Association of University Professors. Donald R. Deere, an economist at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A & M University, studied the wage differential for comparable union and nonunion workers between 1974 and 1996, a period when union membership fell to 15 percent of American workers from 22 percent. In every educational and age category that he studied, Professor Deere found that union members increased their wage advantage over nonunion workers during those years. Last year, he estimates, unionized workers with less than a high school education earned 22 percent more than their nonunion counterparts. The differential declined as education levels rose, reaching JO percent for college graduates.
“It makes sense to belong to a union,” Professor D~ere said, “so long as you don’t lose your job in the long term.