To Unionize or Not to Unionize?

Hispanic business considerations for employees and entrepreneurs regarding unions.



One of the most important decisions that employees can face is whether to elect a union to represent their interests. When confronted with such a difficult and complex decision, many employees expect entrepreneurs, business managers and supervisors to provide guidance. The following is critical information that all employees should have when facing such decisions.

What it means to elect a “collective bargaining agent.”

When employees elect a union, they are agreeing to subordinate their own personal interests and goals to that of the collective will. Employees, in effect, are hiring and paying an exclusive agent to represent their collective interests in negotiations with the employer. If a union wins, the employer and employee may no longer work together to resolve employment issues. Depending on the employees’ circumstances, they may determine that such drastic steps are necessary to obtain more leverage (especially if individual attempts to improve their terms and conditions of employment have been unsuccessful). However, employees should understand that all of them will be bound to whatever agreement, if any, is entered into by the union, even if the employees disagree with the agreement and even if the agreement contains terms and conditions that are worse than what employees had before they elected the union. Employees also should understand that once they hire a union, it is extremely difficult to undo that relationship.

Not all unions are alike.

In hopes of getting hired, union advocates may make promises about what the union will be able to obtain for employees. However, union promises are only promises to ask the employer for something. Because employers retain the right to determine what they will agree to, a union cannot guarantee any terms or conditions. Union advocates also may claim that they obtained successful results at other companies. However, unions differ in their level of expertise. Therefore, just as they would when hiring any other service provider, employees should be cautious of promises and do their homework about the union’s knowledge of their industry, employer, and past results. For example, employees should research how many times the union has won and lost elections, the union’s strike history, and how many times employees have tried to terminate their relationship with the union. Employees should talk to individuals currently represented by the union (not just union advocates) about whether promises made to them were fulfilled. Employees also should read contracts the union has entered at other companies to check whether the union in fact has been successful in bargaining.


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