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    Union contracts empower workers to make positive changes

    August 27, 2019

August 27, 2019

Union contracts empower workers to make positive changes

Satisfaction at work depends on more than just wage increases, and one of the great things about having a union contract is the ability to have a say not only in wages and benefits, but the other policies at work that can have a big impact on the lives of working men and women.

Union contracts make jobs safer

UFCW Local 21 members at a cannabis company in Seattle, WA got it in writing that their employer form safety committees to meet regularly to discuss concerns at the workplace. The committees must include a union member, which helps ensure that both management and workers’ perspectives’ are included. Safety committees not only help make sure issues are addressed in a timely way, but that worker concerns are addressed without fear of retaliation.

Union contracts improve pay

Union contracts are especially beneficial for women and minority workers because they help ensure equal pay for equal work. On average, unionization raises women workers’ wages by over 11% – almost $2.00 per hour.

Beyond just improvements to hourly wages, unions can also make sure employees get paid fairly for the time they spend on the job. UFCW Local 1529 members who work at a poultry plant in Laurel, MS got it in writing that they are paid for the time it takes to put on, and take off, job-required equipment and attire.

Union contracts improve scheduling

In today’s changing workplace, employees are looking for more than just compensation, they are looking for ways to help maintain a healthy work-life balance. A recent study found eighty-seven percent of hourly workers consider having control over their work schedules to be extremely important, while fifty-five percent said they would leave their job if they didn’t have control over when they worked.

Though scheduling is consistently ranked as one of the most important issues for hourly workers, many employers still fail to give workers adequate notice of their schedules for them to plan their personal lives. Often even if there are policies on advance notice for employees, there are frequently few consequences for managers who repeatedly break those policies.

In their union contract, UFCW Local 75 members who work at superstores in Kentucky and Ohio got it in writing that their store must give 10 days advanced notice for employee schedules. Having advance notice helps workers maintain work-life balance, and is one of the best examples of how a simple change in policy can have a dramatic impact on the lives of working men and women.

Union contracts support families

Grocery workers at UFCW Local 1776KS in Pennsylvania got it in writing that their company set up a Dependent Care FSA — and contribute $50 per month to each employee’s account. Dependent Care FSAs allow employees to set aside money pre-tax for childcare and dependent expenses such as such as preschool, summer day camp, before or after school programs, and child or adult daycare.

Working men and women who are juggling the responsibility of caring for a child or a spouse or a relative who is physically or mentally incapable of self-care, already have enough on their plates to worry about. Dependent Care FSAs can help provide some relief by making it easier to coordinate care while balancing the needs of their jobs.

What can go in a contract?

Anything the union members feel is important and that can be successfully negotiated with the company is fair game. This usually covers the basics like wages, raises, processes for discipline and termination, safeguards against favoritism, scheduling, retirement benefits and health care, but can also include creative language for concerns specific to the unique needs of the bargaining unit such as language protecting LGBTQ workers’ rights, weather-related policies, rules regarding accommodations for religious beliefs, or policies regarding the impact of online sales or automation.

This is one of the main advantages of having a union contract instead of just relying on labor law alone – getting a law passed is time-consuming and may result in rules that aren’t even appropriate for all worksites. A contract gives you more control to make enforceable rules that are more of a custom fit solution rather than one-size-fits all.