Would you rather belong to a union or not, and why?

Last year, 11.8 percent of American workers were members of a labor union, down from 20.1 percent in 1983. Today’s Question: Would you rather belong to a union or not, and why?

  • Zachary Wilson

    I’ve never been part of a union and probably never will be but I’ve seen how much better union jobs are for working class families and individuals. Given the opportunity I would much rather belong to a union than not.

  • Jim G

    I was a public school teacher and union member for 34 years. At different times in my career I served in leadership roles in our local education union. I believe that unions are necessary to give workers a place at the table to represent the needs of workers to ensure that workers are not stifled, enslaved, or run roughshod over by management. If your only choice for a better working conditions is to quit your job,. You need a union.

    That being said, there are those in union leadership who have forgotten that they are hired by their members to represent all their members not just the few who show up at meetings. Maybe that’s what needs reform in the labor movement to enable it to begin growing again.

    During the late 1970’s and 1980’s when my teacher pay didn’t stretch enough to buy that house or upgrade the washing machine I would take summer employment. All jobs were paid in cash, no benefits. All were the dangerous to my health and the only way to improve working conditions was to quit. Here is an example from my own life.

    During the one of the Dutch elm disease years I worked from sunrise to sunset cutting diseased trees. I used chainsaws up to 48” without safety training and drove a dump truck with a front-loader. The guy I replaced had sent a log through the windshield. I practiced with the PTO all afternoon on the first day. I never dropped one. When I went home every night, my arms would shake uncontrollably. From sunrise to sunset cutting, raking, lifting, dumping until the Wednesday came when the owner offered me a toke from his marijuana cigarette to unwind at the end of a 16 hour shift. I told him then and there that I wouldn’t be working for him anymore after Friday. He didn’t trust me with the loader after that conversation. The next day he dropped a log through the windshield. I needed a union on that job.

  • Donald Schumacher

    I am very proud to be a union worker for the past 28 years. When a company grows, unfortunately, the power of greed can set in. Owners, CEO’s, and shareholders want bigger and better profits and that’s great. It becomes, in many instances, too tempting for the top dogs to want to share the growth with only the elite few. Not every company is like this, Anderson Windows for example, shares it’s profits and keeps it’s workers happy with their pay and benefits. in a perfect world there would be no need for unions. We live in an imperfect society where greed controls too often. Unions are necessary to get the books opened and to see that fair wages and benefits be given to the workers, who generate the product, that generates the revenue

  • CLee

    I am a member of a union, and I’m pretty ambivalent about my membership. My union is a big business. They operate for the benefit of the greater organization, not any particular individual. I pay a lot of money in dues every year, but I don’t think I see a corresponding benefit in compensation.

    That said I believe in the necessity of unions. If there were no unions, there would be 80 hour work weeks, no health insurance, no sick or vacation time, no retirement, no safety regulations, no workers compensation. Unions have done all that for ALL workers, members or not. We should all be very grateful to the workers who literally gave their lives so we can have the decent working conditions we enjoy now.

    I think union membership would be on the rise if there were a little competition among unions. For example, at my workplace there is a lot of dissatisfaction with our union, but we don’t have any realistic means of changing who represents us. I would like to see a periodic vote of confidence so a union would have to work harder to meet our needs instead of just viewing us as a cash cow for their bottom line.

    I would also like to see the category of Exempt worker eliminated or greatly restricted so that employers wouldn’t be able to pad their profit margin by making workers work 60 hour weeks. The Exempt classification has become a way to skirt work rules and to keep hiring to a minimum. Think of the improvement in the unemployment rate if employers were not allowed to schedule workers to work a 50-70 hour week on a regular basis.

  • Steve the Cynic

    If I were in a line of work that were unionizable, I would join in a heartbeat. Folks in my line are often mistreated, disrespected, and taken advantage of by their employers or clients, but we do it because it’s worth doing, not to make huge piles of money.

  • Clark

    I am a strong believer in merit which unions do not endorse.

    As I view the historical damage created by greedy unions, I don’t understand their goals of bankrupting companies, cities and states, in order to provide unsustainable pay and benefits for their workers.

    Any company that requires flexibility to meet changes in a global economy, realize unions are a kiss of death.

    California and Illinois could have their bonds lowered to junk, all due to union pension and health care benefits. In California, some workers can retire at 50, with full benefits. This just makes no sense to me.

    In NYC, incompetent teachers are paid full salaries for years, as its almost impossible to fire incompetent teachers.

    Then there was GM, which had negotiated a job bank for laid off workers where they received 90% of their pay for 5 years for not working. No wonder GM went BK.

    Scott Walker is my hero.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Clark, you may legitimately hold the opinion that bankrupting corporations is a forseeable outcome of over-aggressive unions, but to say that’s their “goal” is disingenuous. Their goal is fair treatment of workers. Likewise, those on the left may legitimately say that laissez faire capitalism tends to result in the oppression of the majority by a few, but they’re wrong if they think that’s the goal of capitalists.

  • P. Nielsen

    I would rather be a union member than not. Coming from a blue-collar, one-earner family, I saw and benefited greatly because my dad was a member of the UAW at the Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul for 45 years. He began at Ford before there was a union, worked 12-hour days, six days a week with no benefits such as health coverage, pension, or vacation. A man couldn’t even leave the assembly line for a bathroom break without permission….doing so resulted in immediate firing. Without the union movement in this country, hard as Washington has made it for people to organize from the beginning, workers today, be they doing their time in offices behind desks, on a factory floor, anywhere the labor laws are there to hold employers accountable for their actions, people today would be working under the same conditions as those men, and a few women, did back in the early to mid-20th century. Certain political parties and their members vowed to destroy unions and have continued that behavior to the present. All one has to do is see how many states have passed “right to work” laws, and how Congress has failed to pass legislation to make it easier and faster for workers to organize. It is shameful to say the least. To those non-unionized workers and those vehemently against unions, if nothing is done to reverse these trends, then you will all be contributing to the race to the bottom and the country’s further decline into Third World States, exactly what the anti-union people envision….more for themselves and less for you. Wake up.

  • Shawn E

    I would not.

    It is just another layer of bureaucracy that in my eyes does not add any real value to anything. There was a time they had a use but that time has passed.

    Watching unions fight for a cops iob when they are filmed abusing people annoys me to. EX. the St paul cop kicking the dude when he was down and punching him.

  • georges

    The ten States most in danger of going bankrupt are the same ten States that owe the most money to Public Employees through idiotic Golden Rainbow contracts with the Public Employee Unions.

    This fact is not a coincidence.

    When Union thugs and Democrats in public office join together to rip off the Middle Class Americans, they do a bang-up job of it.

    In the private sector, a little over 6% of employees are union members. For public employees, the number is nearly 50%.

    This divergence is not a coincidence.

    The Union Fat Cat bosses and the Democrats have done a great job of fleecing the Taxpayer.

    The unions collect 14 billion dollars a year in dues, 2 billion from the teachers alone. This money keeps thousands of Unionistas and Democrats in boats, fancy cars, and wonderful homes on palatial estates.

    This is, of course, good for the economy. Those teachers didn’t need all that extra money, anyway.

    Might as well give it to the Union guys and the Dems. Keeps them off the welfare rolls, as they are unfit for any kind of real job. Unable to do honest work.


  • Rich

    @ Clark

    88.2% of the US workforce is non-union. I fail to see how the remaining 11.8 % that are unionized are ruining the nation’s economy.

  • kathy wedl

    Did we have a middle class before unions? Can we survive as a nation without taxpayers? If the middle class is unable to pay taxes, then who? Without unions the fat cats will be free to abuse workers both in and out of unions like never before. The one percent doesn’t need cheerleaders. The workers do.

  • georges

    It is amusing to see union advocates trot out the old amateur tactic, pretending that if there had been no unions the condition of employment would be exactly the same as it was a century ago.

    Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The natural evolution of Capitalism would have brought better conditions for the worker than the union activity did. And, without the union leeches to support.

    Everything evolves as necessary. Most liberals believe in the evolution of animals, plants, etc., but have real trouble understanding evolution in economics, politics, ideology, etc., where it is much easier to see. The great blinder of men is their devotion to their own “feelings”.

    The membership in unions is 11.8%. And dropping rapidly. Young people are at 5%. Old people are at 16%. The handwritting is on the wall. The Unions are fighting like hell to preserve their Golden Goose.

    The Union guys don’t want to go out and find real jobs. They may have to actually work for a living. Imagine the horrors of that idea.

    Remember this: ALL employees of the teachers unions make more money than the average teacher. That’s right. The most menial worker at the union offices makes more than any teacher except a few old timers. And the big union guys make millions. So, teachers, see if you can get employment at the union office. You will make more and worry less. You will, though, have to keep paying union dues.


  • Clark


    I can’t agree more with your comment. Yet in California and Illinois the unions control the democrats since they are the major contributors.

    You are simply wrong and if you follow legislation in Illinois and California, you would understand the massive corruption on the taxpayners, funded in whole by greedy corrupt unions.

    This is why Scott Walker is brillant. No more auto deductions for public union dues in wisconsin. It is also on the ballot in california but the unions understand this will be their death so lies and more lies.

  • Clark

    Steve the clueless

    I have only two words: eastern airlines

  • Ann

    Years ago I heard about how General Motors was having problems because of the cost of benefits for the employees.When people get untaxed cadillac benefits, those of us without those benefits have to pay their portion of taxes on that revenue. I think that those benefits have also contributed to the high cost of healthcare, making it almost impossible for us to afford health insurance as individuals. People with cadillac benefits don’t care what they are charged or if they have unnecessary tests. If all government employees had to buy their health insurance and other benefits on the open market, Congress and the medical community would quickly make some changes. Union benefits have caused problems.How many of us have had teachers who didn’t make any effort to teach because they had tenure? I had a lot of teachers like that.

  • jockamo

    Even if you believe unions had value for the worker in the early days, as soon as they gained real power in the system they began to abuse it.

    Geezers will remember (unwillingly) the days when the unions forced workers, and the USA in general, to become mediocre.

    “Hey, you can’t do that!”


    “You can’t make 800 widgets a day.”

    “Why not?”

    “Because I say so. I’m the Union Rep. I and the union say so, that’s why not. You can only make 500 widgets a day.”

    “But if I only made 500 a day, I would be standing around bored as hell for half the day. I like to work.”

    “Tough. 500 a day. That’s all.”

    “Well, after I make my 500, can I go help Joe and Pete?”

    “Hell no!!! They would then go over quota. The Union doesn’t allow that.”

    “What can I do, then?”

    “Sit on your thumb. I don’t care. As long as you don’t go over 500 widgets a day. If you do, you’re fired.”

    The young workers of today are mostly unaware of those old ways the unions ruined America. But they are smart enough to know the unions are worse than useless.

  • Mark in Freeborn

    I was raised in a union household, but I never really understood or appreciated how much unionism helped my family and others like us. Today, I am a union member and I I know that our union, although not perfect, works very hard to ensure the best for the general good. Without it, there’s no telling what our pay or working conditions would be.

  • Rich


    I believe what you are referring to is the free-rider rule. Which allows non-dues paying workers to receive the exact same benefits as dues paying members. They are what I characterize as the mooches in the workplace. All the benefits, with zero shared sacrifice.

    That’s hardly a conservative principle.

  • Emery

    Speaking of American greatness, it’s labor day and I get to watch a baseball game on TV. Two private sector teams playing in a public park. Dang me but I love my country.

  • jockamo

    The moochers in the workplace are the public employee unions and their members.

    The union fat cat bosses and the Democrats in public office joined together in an unholy alliance and conspired to, and in actuality did complete and enforce laws that steal money from workers and force them into servitude they do not desire.

    These laws are illegal and, in fact, criminal.

    Therefore, any law that cuts into the criminal activities of the unions is, by definition, conservative.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Clark, I take being called names by someone whose apparent definition of success is merely being able to extract large profits from the economy and hoard them without regard to the common good as a high compliment.


    Pay no attention to jockamo/georges, folks. He’s actually a radical lefty trying to discredit conservatives by posing as a conservative and posting absurd comments. At least, that’s the best sense I’ve been able to make of his otherwise ridiculous rants.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Even if unions are theoretically not necessary today because workers are normally treated much better than they were a century ago, the threat of unionization is still useful, because it gives employers an incentive to treat their workers well enough that it’s not worth their trouble to unionize.

  • Luke Van Santen

    Unions are a direct outgrowth of corporate & political abuse. Until such time as neither of those abuses can happen, unions should and will persist.

  • Luke Van Santen

    Unions are a direct outgrowth of corporate & political abuse. Until such time as neither of those abuses can happen, unions should and will persist. I will continue to support (and be a member of) unions that fight these abuses.

  • Gary F

    No, I don’t want to get paid the same as someone who isn’t working as hard or as productive as me.

    And, I don’t want my union dues going out as political contributions.

  • jockamo

    The unions serve exactly the same purpose for the workers that a pimp serves for the prostitute.

    Ask any self-respecting street walker why she willingly gives part of her pay to a pimp, and she will tell you because her pimp has the cops (government) on his payroll so that they will not interfere with her income stream.

    The unions, particularily the public employee unions, do exactly the same thing. They own the public office holders, mostly Democrats, and facilitate the flow of money to their girls on the street.

    The only difference being the street walker sells a service to a willing buyer, while the unions are protecting a bloated public sector filled with every kind of distant cousin and party hack who needs a job that requires little work and top pay.

    Both are criminal enterprises…..both get legal protection from the government-pimpy alliance.

    Old timers will remember Robert F. Kennedy (Bobby) legally chasing down the corrupt unions of his day when he was Attorney General. He barely got a start on fighting union criminality, but at least he DID start, which is something we will never see now, as the unions and government have joined together for the purpose of extracting as much taxpayer money as possible from an unwilling middle class. Indeed, the Democrat Party run governments are a debt-collection arm of the unions. Watch out! Ritchie may be ringing your doorbell, baseball bat in hand.


  • Steve the Cynic

    Does that mean the “job creators” serve the same function as the johns, jockamo/georges? Screw the workers and pay them as little as possible?