Labor unions have a long history in America. Despite their critics, the positive effects of labor unions on American society cannot be disputed. Historically, it has been the labor movement that has ensured many of the employee protections we take for granted today. There are several modern-day reasons in favor of labor unions, ranging from employee wage and safety protections to employee retention.
Higher Wages and Better Benefits
According to the AFL-CIO, unionized wages are fully 30 percent higher than non-union wages. The differential is highest for Latino workers, among whom unionized workers earn 50 percent higher wages than their non-unionized counterparts. In addition, 97 percent of unionized employees have health benefits, while only 85 percent of non-unionized employees do. Guaranteed pensions are enjoyed by 68 percent of unionized workers and by only 14 percent of non-unionized workers.
Low Employee Turnover and High Business Productivity
The AFL-CIO also cites academic literature that supports the argument that a unionized workforce is a stable one, with low employee turnover, high productivity rates, and better trained workers when compared with non-unionized environments. The AFL-CIO specifically cites a 1978 Journal of Political Economy study which found unionized workplaces to be 22 percent more productive than non-unionized environments. The organization also cites a 2004 study that found nurses unions improve patient care by keeping staff-to-patient ratios high and limiting overtime hours. The study, published in "Industrial and Labor Relations Review," found nurses unions actually have a positive effect on heart attack recovery rates.
Workplace Health and Safety
The AFL-CIO also cites a study that found that it is union membership that allows low-ranking employees to speak up about safety hazards in the workplace and have them remedied. The Alberta Federation of Labour also cites a 1996 study that found that unionized environments had a higher level of compliance with health and safety regulations, by a measure of 79 percent to 54 percent.
Job Security and Protection
Unlike in a non-unionized environment, individual employees enjoy the benefit of union protection when they face reprimand or loss of employment. Established procedures are set out in the workplace contract, called the collective agreement, that both the union and the employer must follow. Although an employee may still be reprimanded or lose her job, the process ensures the employee is properly represented during the process.
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