Labor unions are a good thing; it’s time college students discuss them more


Kernel Opinion SIG

“Labor union” seems like a foreign term to many college students and are often associated with a different generation, but they shouldn’t be. Labor unions are more common and easier to understand than you probably imagine.

In the U.S., there are four types of labor unions: craft, general, industrial and white collar. Each union has specific purposes and duties to represent each worker both as an individual and as a whole group. At the beginning of each calendar year, the statistics of the previous years’ union membership rate is released on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website. In 2017, approximately 14.8 million people in the U.S. belonged to a union. 

There are many misconceptions when it comes to unions. For one, many think that labor union dues are too high. In 2017, the average median weekly earnings of union members were $1,041, compared to $829 in weekly earnings of non-union members, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Union dues are, on average, $400 a year. In the end, union members, when comparing their average yearly earnings, will still earn $10,624 more after union dues than non-union members. 

Another argument about labor unions is over where the dues go. These dues, taken weekly out of paychecks, go back into funding the unions. When unions must fight for pay raises or benefits for union members, those expenses can be overwhelming. Union dues go towards these endeavors. Labor unions aren’t for-profit organizations. They’re in place to ensure better working conditions for all of us. 

One last major misconception about labor unions is that they’re just for the “working-class”, or for people mainly in manual labor jobs. But they’re much broader than that. Unions in the U.S. represent all types of professions: grocery employees, news media, law enforcement, engineers, firefighters, teachers, nurses and more.

Unions are good for many reasons: They help guarantee pay raises, allocate paid vacation days (even some for part-time workers), provide job security and aid in healthcare options. The positives of a labor union far outweigh any misconception brought forth. College students should do their research and really understand what a labor union could provide in their future, or current, endeavors.