Why I'm a Union Member

I’ve been a member of American Federation of Musicians Local 677 (Honolulu) since 1987. Aside of the various member benefits (like health and equipment insurance), my local continues to provide me with information on Hawaii peace demonstrations, political meetings and information. I am proud of their activism. ~ABL

Needed: Workplace Democracy
Thom Hartmann
September 19, 2006

Thom Hartmann is the author of Screwed: The Undeclared War on the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It, from which this piece has been excerpted.

Unless you are a CEO, you don’t have a lot of leverage to demand benefits at your workplace. Every year or two, you might go to your boss and ask for a raise or an extra day of vacation, but usually you can’t do much about what hours you work, what health benefits you receive or how your retirement benefits are structured. Unions give workers that leverage.

Unions are designed to give workers a voice in decisions that affect their jobs. They allow workers to negotiate with their employers for wages, health benefits, retirement benefits, and good working conditions. In the best circumstances, unions partner with companies—both have an interest in satisfied, happy workers.

Unions create a middle class by allowing you and me to ask for the wages and the benefits we need to become or remain middle class. Unionized workers earn higher wages, have better benefits, enjoy greater job stability, and work in a safer environment. In 2003 union workers earned an average of 27 percent more than nonunionized workers. Seventy-three percent of union workers received medical benefits compared with just 51 percent of nonunion workers. And 79 percent of union workers have pension plans.

Conservatives have slandered unions for more than a hundred years. Professional people have bought the line that it is unprofessional to be in a union, that only blue-collar workers unionize.

Read more.