Unions are common in fields such as film production, manufacturing and teaching. While unions offer workers a chance to work together for collective benefits, they can also pose problems for employers or individual workers. According to the American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations, in 2009 more than 15 million American workers belonged to labor unions.
A primary drawback of a union job is that employees must pay dues to support the union and fund its activities. In states that don't have a Right to Work law, non-union members who have jobs in a heavily unionized field may even have to pay dues when they don't join the union. Despite laws that restrict unions to charging reasonable dues, union dues can add up over the course of a career. In cases where unions are ineffectual at negotiating benefits for employees, paying union dues can seem even more costly.
Unions organize employees into a single group with unified values and cohesive strategies for bargaining with employers. This means that the union has more power to negotiate increases in wages, benefits or job stability than individual employees would have on their own. Employers can deal directly with union representatives rather than each individual employee, saving time and money during the negotiating process. Unions can use the threat of a strike to draw attention to perceived injustices or put pressure on employers to improve working conditions.
Union members stand to receive benefits their employers might never have offered to a non-unionized workforce. Unions negotiate for everything from more paid vacation and higher wages to guaranteed raises for senior employees and increased pensions or health insurance benefits. However, in some cases union negotiations result in new policies that affect members and non-members. This is true of wage and benefit increases. Non-union workers may be able to avoid paying dues and still receive benefits that come from the union activities that their colleagues who are members fund.
Unionized industries may face a competitive disadvantage when it comes to changing business plans or reorganizing. Companies that wish to reduce their workforce in favor of automation or outsourcing may face severe backlash from the union that represents employees in danger of losing their jobs. Collective bargaining agreements may make it impossible for businesses to institute large-scale changes before a new agreement can be negotiated, which may slow the pace of restructuring in the face of changing markets.