Should workers still join unions?

Last updated: April 24, 2024
Trending post
Paul Baker
Community SpecialistBullet point
Community Specialist
Facebook share linkTwitter share link
Should workers still join unions?
Jump to section

Right now the nation is buzzing with talk of labor unions. The conversation was kicked off by news of a recent vote by Amazon workers about forming a labor union. So where is this argument coming from and where is it going? Let’s break it down.

Could unions still benefit you?

The main reason labor unions are helpful is because they represent workers interests as a unified group, rather than a few employees who can easily be silenced for speaking out on their own.

What have labor unions done for you so far?

In order to fully appreciate what labor unions are good for, it’s important to understand what they have achieved for American workers so far. So what have labor unions achieved for workers? Things like these current work-life essentials:

  • Weekends
  • The federal minimum wage
  • Overtime pay
  • The eight-hour work day
  • The forty-hour workweek
  • Laws to end child labor
  • Workers compensation laws
  • FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act)
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Employer funded health benefits
  • And more...

Most of us know about and have benefitted from items on the list above. For those of us who grew up with these laws and benefits in place, it can be difficult to imagine a world without them, however for each of these items, American workers in labor unions had to come together to lobby for these rights (many times over a long period of time.)

How could a labor union help you today?

Labor unions are still actively lobbying for more rights for workers. Much like in the past, they tend to come up against a lot of resistance for their campaigns. Currently, American labor unions are running refreshed campaigns for:

These new campaigns are a natural extension of past labor union achievements. As the nature of work continues to change and evolve for Americans, labor unions argue that they must be there to ensure that worker benefits keep up with changes in the labor market and overall economy.

What are the downsides of union membership?

Although the past benefits to having labor unions are clear when looking at the advances they brought to American labor laws, some argue that the labor union is an outdated and ineffective tool for advancing rights for workers today.

Some common arguments against workers joining unions are:

  • Unions disrupt the relationship between employers and workers
  • Union leaders can be corrupt
  • Unions allow workers to take advantage of employers
  • Unions interfere with company profits
Want more information? 

How does Amazon fit in?

Recently, an Amazon warehouse location in Alabama has started a vote for unionizing local Amazon workers. If a majority of workers vote for a union, it will be the first Amazon union formed in the United States, and could pave the way for more Amazon unions in the future.

Those who would support an Amazon union say it would bring better working conditions to workers while those opposed (including Amazon) argue that a worker's union would only bring delays, revenue loss and interfere with the employer/employee relationship.

What's your take on this debate? Should Amazon workers form a union?



Kristina Calin
Bullet point
Archaeologist Museum Consultant at Self Employed

Unions are absolutely necessary. Most of my 25 year nursing career was spent in "Right to Work" states.....where you have the "right to work" for peanuts, horrible benefits, are continuously overworked and underpaid, and abused by employers who were out for the all mighty $.

I finally switched careers (now self employed) when, after years of excruciating back pain, an MRI showed that I have a large benign tumor wrapped around my spinal cord. It was caused by the continuous back injuries, most sustained when I had to do 2-4 person lifts alone because we were so understaffed that no one could come help.

After the 2nd serious injury, I was essentially told that if I kept hurting my back (like it was my fault), I'd lose my job. I was single and had 2 young children at home to care, like most nurses, I learned to work with untreated bone fractures, a young back that felt as if it was 120 years old, torn shoulder name it.

By the time my body was so badly beat up I had 2 choices: 1.) Leave nursing or 2.) End up in a wheelchair

Not to mention that I barely knew what a "break" was. I'd go 14+ hours without using the bathroom, which led to chronic bladder & kidney infections. And my hospital had a very strict attendance rule: You were allowed to miss ONE day out of a 365 day rolling calendar. Most of us saved that day for when our kids were sick with some crud we had brought home with us from the hospital. We'd go to work with pneumonia, horrible colds and flus, and lots of other contagious stuff (that we had usually picked up from the hospital). When one of us would turn a deathly color of gray, the sick person would have a co-worker put an IV in them. They'd work the front desk until their bag was dry. Then back to work. iI worked almost exclusively Maternal/Child Health and NICU. Often, our units would look like a zombie apocalypse because of all the terribly ill nurses and doctors working.

But one of my FAVORITE things our non-union hospital did is something that people outside of the medical field have little knowledge of. I was ONLY trained in M/C health, L&D and NICU. Often, house supervisors would take us away from our already desperately understaffed unit and "float" us to other units where we had no training or experience. They'd SAY that we were just going to act as nurse's aides, but that never happened: the other unit would load us down with a full assignment of seriously sick patients in need of alot of SKILLED care. We had no idea what we were doing....but if we refused, that meant automatic termination of employment. Of course, whenever Labor and Delivery was overloaded and understaffed and we asked for help, the response was always, "Oh...sorry. The other nurses aren't trained in Labor and Delivery so they can't do it." Somehow, that was a concern, but putting RN's who spent their whole careers delivering babies were expected to remember the 2 days they spent on caring for post op open heart surgeries in nursing school decades ago.

I could go on and on. I'm tired of hearing that noise about nurses shouldn't unionize because the UNION leaders can become corrupt. Haha....They should concern themselves with the overpaid CEO's sitting in their offices, dreaming up dangerous new ways to send higher dividends to their stock holders. And of course, those CEO's relished the bonuses they got for creating dangerous situations in the hospitals. What did the hospital workers get as an annual gesture of gratitude? a $10 gift card for Kroger....that was subject to payroll tax and then sales tax.

There's already a nursing shortage. After the whole COVID19 debacle, where staff often couldn't even get the most basic of PPE, I know many who are leaving the profession. They've had enough. And if these workers had ever had any doubts, now they know that their lives mean NOTHING to the big wigs running large, prosperous hospital and raking in 7-8 figure salaries....while stripping front line employees of even their tiny yearly raises, making them pay ALOT more for their health insurance, and abusing the nurses, aids, etc who needed hip and knee replacements before they turned 40.

Yes, we need unions. I fear that the continual lack of unions will reign ruin upon the people whose lives depend on the care these providers give.

Everyone else in this country should also be terrified, because at any time, any of us could find ourselves in a situation where we need proper hospital care or we could die. That high paid CEO simply cannot fulfill the duties of the vital staff that said CEO exploits and abuses.

This healthcare system is an unholy mess. If these conditions continue, the entire US healthcare system (which is repeatedly ranked near the bottom, compared to OCED countries). Could collapse. Then what? Run to Canada and flood their healthcare facilities?

Joanne Daniel
Bullet point
Rn at Legends Assisted Living

Now that we have fair labor laws I don't believe it is necessary to have unions. If you pay dues to a union and then decide later to work for another company, you will lose that money you paid to the union. I was an RN [now retired] and my husband was a carpenter. We both preferred working for non-union jobs and had great working relationships with our bosses. Good bosses will reward good employees and pay you according to your work . Employers are not enemies. Most are good. Some are bad, but you have a choice. You don't have to stay working for a bad one. You can help your employer improve a bad situation with helpful, respectful dialogue and good and intelligent suggestions. Remember, employers need you as much as you need them and THEY ARE TAKING A CHANCE ON YOU. You will go farther if you have an attitude of gratitude and work hard. Lastly, unions tend to create an adversarily relationship between employer and employee and that doesn't help anyone but the unions who are raking in the union dues and getting rich like Hollywood agents. Why not keep your hard earned wages. My husband and I prayed for good jobs that were a right fit for each of us and we believe God provided.