Unions are organized a group of employees that come together to deliberate on issues pertaining to their working conditions. The first labor unions can be traced to the 1810s and have since then been integral components of various industrial sectors. The employee unions continue to serve a critical role in the modern business world similar to the purpose for which they were originally founded. The executive compensation is consistently skyrocketing in the modern corporate world while the middle level and low employees suffer from layoffs and stagnant wages. Unions struggle to eliminate this trend by championing for increased wages for employees. In the same effort, unions pile pressure on employers to embrace the principles of equal pay for the equal amount of work done (Kaufman et al. 17). This paper explores the role of employee unions in the modern business world, including the effects of trade unions on innovation and productivity.
Apart from addressing unfair compensation practices, unions play a critical role in securing labor protection legislation that ensures employees’ rights to safe and healthy working environment, over time, and medical leaves and ensuring these rights are enforced on the job. Since unionized workers are well informed through continuous awareness initiatives, they are a better position to benefit from social insurance programs that include employee compensation and unemployment insurance.
In the United States, the benefits of employee unions far surpass the disadvantages. Statistics show that unions have raised the salaries and wages of their members including the benefits by 28 percent (Kaufman et al. 17). Unionized also employees enjoy generous health benefits compared to the nonunionized employees. They pay 18 percent less health care deductibles and a low share for family coverage. Upon reaching the retirement age, unionized employees are 24 percent most likely to be covered by health insurance financed by their employers.
In the US teaching industry, teachers unions have been critical in advancing teachers rights for equal pay for the equal amount of work done. While teachers had been handling a huge bulk of work extending for long hours of working days, these efforts do not usually reflect in their compensation. Teachers unions have been at the forefront in pushing for legislation that guarantees merit-based pay. Teachers unions also are the custodians of teachers’ minimum wage, they ensure that employers do not exploit their members by remunerating them below the negotiated minimum wage (West et al. 101). Unions give teachers a sense of job security by condemning and standing in defense of Teachers in cases of unfair employees practices such as unfair dismissal, suspension, transfer or demotion.
Educators are not immune to lawsuits from parents or seeking legal representation for employment-related issues. When such need arises, teachers unions provide legal representation to their members. As legible members of a union, teachers facing legal suits receive are entitled to the benefit of advice and counsel whenever necessary. The NEA and AFT unions in the United States offer liability insurance to educators to safeguard them against unforeseen injury, accidents or other detrimental cases that may arise at their workplace (Moe 127). In the absence of this crucial assistance, Teachers would be forced to pay for lawyers or legal counsel out of their own pockets.
Teachers unions are central to the collective bargaining process. Through their unions, teachers have a stronger collective voice to champion for better employment contracts. The unions negotiate on behalf of their member and protect them from poor remuneration and adverse working conditions related to workplace health and safety, working hours and benefits. For example, The San Francisco Unified School District collective bargaining agreement for teachers’ addresses health and safety concerns (West et al. 101). This collective agreement stipulates that an inclusive safety and disaster management plan be put in place; necessary safety signs and notices be posted strategically; the department of health information be promptly availed to educators; teachers have a functioning procedure for reporting hazardous conditions to district officials, and all the classrooms are equipped with the first-aid kit. Research shows that collective bargaining has significantly increased the teachers’ salaries and benefits, which is the direct benefit of union membership.
The unions protect teachers against sexual harassment, bullying and other forms of discrimination that they may be susceptible to in their working place. Cases of employment discrimination of teachers along racial, cultural and religious backgrounds are still alive in the United States today as they were in the past (West et al. 101). Teachers unions are taking active roles in ensuring that their members are insulated from these discriminations through collective bargaining agreement, legal processes and pushing for effective policies that address these challenges.
Teacher unions provide various state-specific and countrywide opportunities for personal and professional development to their members. The National Education Association (NEA) conducts mentorship and leadership training programs that expand the knowledge and skill set of their members. In the same effort, The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) developed an Educational Research and development programs that bring together teachers and researchers to enhance quality education and teaching approaches through studies and research (Kaufman et al. 17). Additionally, Teachers unions also provide teaching strategy tools, online sessions, and workshops, as well as opportunities for scholarships for members seeking to advance their education to degree level or acquire the national board certification. Teachers’ unions in the US are increasingly establishing partnerships with organizations such as administrator associations, universities and philanthropic foundation develop modern practice-driven professionalization initiatives including peer coaching and mentoring.
When it comes to the impacts of employee unions on productivity and innovation, several studies by various scholars reveal two contrasting views. The first school of thought reveals a positive correlation between unionization, productivity, and innovation. The argument is that employee union’s milestone in protecting employees’ job security and enhancing better working conditions not only motivates employees to work hard, but also encourage them to exploit their full potentials resulting in increased productivity (Bradley et al. 2266). Similarly, the kind of protection offered by unions encourages industrial workers to explore beyond the conventional manufacturing and productions process and experiment with new ideas without fear of repercussions. This encourages innovative activity that is essential in sharpening companies’ competitive edge.
Research shows that teachers unions have immensely contributed to the increased productivity of teachers. Improved remuneration, better working conditions and the reduction in discrimination brought about by unionization has enhanced teachers’ engagement in carrying out duties and increased job satisfaction (Lovenheim 563). This is characterized by low turnovers and the better performance of students they teach. Unlike the early years before the emergence of trade unions, teachers today are actively engaged in education policy-making process and are capable of raising concerns on issues that directly affect them while carrying out their duties.
However, other findings reveal negative outcomes as to the effects if employee unions on innovation and productivity. According to Bradley et al. several researchers argue against the idea of unions promoting innovation and productivity (2257). A good example put across in support of this view is the case study of Chrysler Automobiles. The company’s liabilities are approximately $ 18 billion dollars in the cost of health-care and other employee-related benefits attributed to union’s collective bargaining negotiations. This means that the company spends a huge amount of its operating profit paying off its liabilities to workers and in certain instances making losses, this hinders the company’s productivity. Additionally, a lot of financial resources that could otherwise be invested in research and development programs that fosters innovation are spent on employee liabilities.
A recent survey of the 2000 innovative technology firms under the representation of the Consumer Electronics Association revealed that very few are actually unionized. CEOs in the technology industry expressed concerns that employee unions would interfere with the requisite flexibility needed to innovate and effectively compete (Bradley et al. 2270). The survey points to the negative effects that unions have on innovation.
In summary, the role of the unions is still relevant today as they were when the first unions emerged and will continue into the unforeseen future. Despite few criticisms from different sectors particularly the employers, employee unions have played a critical role in protecting the fundamental rights of employees and it’s fair to conclude that they protect other than harm employees. Many American employees still view unions as the only thing that stands in between long exhaustive working hours and the right to fair pay, good working conditions, and decent healthcare benefits.