Power to the Trades People: How Unions Make a Difference
Work in the trades can be demanding and dangerous. The hours, physical labour, and work conditions can be very taxing on the human body. Trade unions play a vital role in addressing problems in trades jobs and ensuring there are proper wages, safe environments, and the enforcement of legal rights. These organizations are based on membership and act independently in order to negotiate on behalf of trades people. They have had a huge impact on trades professions, and will continue to do so for a long time to come.
Trade unions provide a voice for workers. A single trades person might be too nervous to express concerns regarding the workplace. They could struggle to get any traction if they tried to fix a problem on their own. Members of a union, on the other hand, elect a representative to talk to management on behalf of all the workers. This allows for negotiations referred to as “collective bargaining.” As new employees join that workplace, they are encouraged to join their respective union. Each member pays a financial contribution towards the union to keep it going, and that money goes a long way.
Before unions came along, it was common for trades people to work 12 hours a day, and even seven days per week. Children were made to work at factories and placed in dangerous situations. Unions have allowed for tremendous progress, but there are still major issues to address in the modern era. Many employers utilize tactics such as part-time work to avoid providing benefits, hiring foreign workers to pay them less, and internships to avoid paying people at all. Unions are a powerful tool in challenging these corrupt practices
By fighting for equality and challenging discriminatory practices, unions also help workers with their emotional and mental well-being. Management and employees are less likely to waste time arguing, and staff retention will be high. Trades people are more likely to put in a better effort when they feel appreciated and cared for. This is not only for their benefit, but the benefit of the entire organization.
Beyond working conditions, unions also play a role in developing training programs for workers. This improves the efficiency of the company and ultimately benefits the employers. Unions often have a reputation for the opposite effect. In extreme cases, unions can organize strikes when an agreement cannot be reached. However, about 95% of labour agreements are negotiated without resorting to a strike. Workers only strike when the issues matter enough that they are willing to forego a regular paycheck and start picketing. This is a powerful asset provided to workers through unions to ensure they are not taken advantage of.
A trade union acts as a singular force on the behalf of every worker. By paying their dues and actively engaging with their union, trades people are giving themselves a powerful voice against corruptive policies and abusive practices. This leads to greater efficiency and improved output, which in turn boosts related industries and the economy as a whole. Ultimately, we all benefit from the valiant efforts of trade unions. They are an undeniable example of the power and influence we all can have regardless of our position. We are stronger when working together.
Canada’s Building Trades Unions. “Myths and Facts about Unions.” https://buildingtrades.ca/union-careers/myths-and-facts-about-unions/
Ethical Trading Initiative. “Working with trade unions to improve working conditions: The benefits for retailers and suppliers.” https://www.ethicaltrade.org/sites/default/files/shared_resources/benefits_of_working_with_trade_unions.pdf
Union Plus. “How do Unions Work?” https://www.unionplus.org/page/how-do-unions-work