Unions in the United States have been fighting for the rights of workers since the Industrial Revolution. It was necessary for workers of that time to organize and stand up for themselves, as they faced harsh working conditions.
The need for unions has lessened over time, but in recent months the nation has seen a spike in approval of labor unions, according to an August Gallup poll. Companies such as Amazon, Apple, and more recently Starbucks, have all seen victories in unionizing or successfully petitioning for election.
For many people, students included, the idea of unionizing seems like an obvious choice, but perhaps maybe a closer analysis is needed. Will unionizing actually help employees? How will this affect UNLV students and their respective jobs?
“Honestly I wouldn’t be for it, but if it was a harder job I would probably unionize,” said Nikkie Filios, a marketing major at UNLV and part-time worker at Hollister.
Filios went on to further explain that if she worked at Starbucks, “…then I would say yes [to unionizing because] that’s a harder job, they deserve more money.”
Filios said that uniozing really boils down to work conditions and how much or how hard the work is. In addition to the various costs associated with establishing a union, there are certain jobs in which unionizing is counter-productive or even harmful.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, labor unions (also known as labor organizations) are associations of workers who join together and collectively bargain with their employers for better wages, working conditions and other benefits. Unions also act as checks to companies’ power over their workers by holding management accountable for their actions.
According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), in order to become a union, at least 30% of the workforce must agree to file a petition with the NLRB, who will then conduct a vote. If the majority vote is in favor, then the NLRB certifies the union. In such a case, the union would then successfully work within the confines of the company, since a majority voted in favor of having it.
That may sound like a good thing, but it isn’t always. The road to becoming a union can be harsh for workers, and once the union is official, workplace hostilities could continue and in some cases, the union isn’t even worth it. When you think about it like that, it comes down to preference.
Not everyone is happy about workers unionizing. Primarily the owners of companies are not. It is not illegal for a company to use many anti-union tactics, and with minor penalties for offense, the rules for illegal tactics can get bent.
Benign methods of spreading anti-union messages are posters in the workplace, including the bathrooms. Other methods include workplace meetings held to discuss the negatives of a union. More severe measures include surveilling employees and sending anti-union propaganda straight to the employees personal device, according to the Washington Post.
It’s easy to see why workers would want to unionize and it’s easy to imagine why the top brass of a major company would not like that. The truth of the matter is that it’s not as black and white as it seems.
Some workers would not like to be part of a union. On the flip side, some employers promote unions. This makes labeling a union as good or bad more complicated.
A blanket statement can be made that unions promote workplace safety and fight for fair wages, and it can ring true in most cases. It might even feel good to be part of a benevolent organization that cares about the fellow employees. But does that mean every company should unionize? No.
If the workplace feels content with the status quo, then there shouldn’t be a need to fix what isn’t broken. Not every employer is out to get you, just like not every employee hates their job.
Many students at UNLV might feel discontent at our current jobs, but it’s fine to feel like that. For the many students that are also working, this more than likely will not be the job you retire from. But a lot of people depend on their jobs, and for a lot of them it will not be so easy to just get up and leave, or to say, “in four years I’m out of this dump.”
It’s those same people that feel like they should gather together to form an organization, to stand up against unfair work schedules and underpaid wages. It’s those people that know their worth and aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves.
Unions aren’t always needed, but I personally will not be the one to try to prevent hard working Americans from getting what they deserve. At the end of the day, unionizing can be either harmful or helpful. Asset or liability.
It depends on the conditions of work, the workers, and ultimately their goal. There is no definitive positivity to unions as portrayed in the media, but it is still something worth discussing about in the future.