5 Myths about Unions - Debunked

Sep 22, 2022

Tom Joad

Recently some of my co-workers and I have begun agitating and organizing for a union. Consciousness about what unions are and what they do has spread so even avoiding the U word, coworkers spot what we're talking about and either are enthusiastic or have questions. One such conversation started with 'I'm not opposed to unions, but I'm concerned...' followed by a string of repeated myths so I thought this would be a fine time to do some myth busting.

Myth 1:

Unionizing will result in layoffs and closings.

This is far from the truth. Firstly it's illegal for companies to threaten this. Secondly unions can actually help act as a check against illegal or unjust practices and can help protect worker jobs. Capitalists want to make money. They can't make money by closing or laying off employees and if they could automate or move overseas they would do so regardless. It was union action in 1936 that prevented GM from moving their factory to avoid paying higher wages!

Myth 2:

Unions are corporations too!

Corporations exist specifically to increase the wealth held by its owners. They are legally bound to maximize profits within the bounds of the law (that they often help shape). They are undemocratic, top down leadership structures designed to extract value from labor. Unions are lead by the people in the workplaces. While there are dues, and organizers at big unions are usually paid, these dues serve the purposes of maximizing the wages and benefits of its members. If a contract is unacceptable, it's the workers in the union who have the option to accept the contract or not and go out on strike by vote. Are there issues of leadership, of corruption, of mismanagement? Sure, but unlike in an actual corporation, a union is made stronger by the active participation of its members in union work.

Myth 3:

Union dues mean you lose out overall.

Union dues are a small part of your paycheck. Teamsters is 2.5%. The average increase in pay between unionized and non-unionized workers in any given industry with the same experience and education and job duties is over 11% according to the economic policy institute. The data over the history of the US is clear: unions help workers keep more of their hard earned money.

Myth 4:

Things are great right now, we don't need to unionize because we're not as bad off as xyz other company.

Great! But that can be taken away at any time. I remember one colleague telling me she hadn't had a raise in 3 years but was afraid to ask for a raise because she had left early a few times over the years to tend to a child at daycare or a personal issue and didn't want him to take that privelege away. I also remember at a previous job where we all had take home vehicles as part of our job arrangements and the bosses decided that the insurance costs had risen too high and taken that privelege away with less than 24 hours notice. Unions level the playing field and contracts provide legally enforceable means to protecting the things you like about your job.

Myth 5:

Unions just exist because union workers are lazy and greedy and don't want to work.

Union workers are hard workers just like any other. In fact union workplaces have shown higher productivity than non-union workplaces. Unionizing workers want to be paid a high share of the profits that they themselves created. At my workplace over 95% of the ownership of the company is owned by institutional investors like Vanguard and Blackwater. They didn't do anything except own the equipment, but they receive 30-40% of the revenue I worked. The greedy do nothing party to this process of production is the billionaire corporate owners, not your co-workers on the front lines.

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