Unionized Labor: The Pros, The Cons, The Future

Image via Flickr by US Department of Labor

Unionized labor and manufacturing seem to go production line and hand, and like all historic pairs, the two haven’t always worked well together. As a result of the U.S. Recession unions have taken a huge hit. To understand the pros and cons of unionized labor for both manufacturers and unions, it’s time to consider the impact of the U.S. recession on unions and what it means for the future of the industry.

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Unionized Labor and The Recession

Image via Flickr by Workers4America

While the exact relationship between the recession and the decline of unionized workers in U.S. manufacturing is not quite understood, there’s a decline none the less. Proponents of unionized labor cite aggressive new bills out of Washington, while economists claim that a new middle class is emerging and manufacturing workers are simply being left behind.

Whatever the reason, the numbers tell a story of their own. The Washington Post outlines the startling statistics: “U.S. manufacturers have added a half-million new workers since the end of 2009, making the sector one of the few bright spots in an otherwise weak recovery. And yet there were 4 percent fewer union factory workers in 2012 than there were in 2010, according to federal survey data. On balance, all the job gains in manufacturing have been non-union.”

Rather than finding the root of the relationship between unionized labor and the recession, other than the downward trend in manufacturing union workers, the more important facts might be found in the pros and cons of these organizations.

Understanding the Pros and Cons of Unionized Labor

When it comes to the unionized laborers in the manufacturing industry, the pros and cons of unions are a foil for each other. That is to say, what benefits a union worker may not always be in the best interest of the manufacturer. To understand these contrasts, consider the following three aspects of unionized labor and how they each affect both parties:
Better Wages – While unions ensure better wages for their workers – a benefit to the laborers – manufacturers become slaves to these wages, leaving little budge room for negotiations in a harsh economic climate.
Job Security – Just like better wages, unionized workers benefit from job security, since their non-unionized counterparts are generally hired at will and fired at any time. The flip side? Manufacturers may have a difficult time firing unproductive workers.
Strength in Numbers – Unionized laborers have a louder voice than their non-unionized cohorts, which allows them greater freedom to affect change in the workplace. For manufacturers, this could mean unwanted policy changes and other inconveniences that could impact the company’s infrastructure.

Looking to the Future of Unionized Labor

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Critics and proponents of unionized labor will likely vest a lot of interest in current events. As the recession dies down, new trends in hiring will pick up. AFL-CIO, an advocate for unionized workers believes the answer lies in opening up the union opportunities for more workers – not just manufacturing workers – as well as capitalizing on the positive aspects of unionization, such as the pathways to citizenship it provides for many working class individuals.
Ultimately, the fate lies in the hands of union workers more than the industry. Solving the issue with post-recession unionized labor will involve collective action by unions.
What are your views on unionized labor? Does it impact your business, and if so, how? Share your thoughts in the comments below. [/show_to]

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