What the heck is the difference between union and non-union when it comes to work and why does everyone seem to majorly prefer union?


Seriously, I’ve heard so many people cheer on union but when I search up what it is I don’t understand it in the slightest bit.

Please, explain like I’m five.

In: 7

It is the prevention of divide and conquer. An employer does not want their staff getting together and making cohesive demands. Its about where the power lies in the agreement to work for a fee. Without a union the employer has the power and with a union the employee has some power.

If a workplace is unionized, that means everyone employed there must pay in dues for the union, and need to be approved by the union. In return, the union has the power to negotiate with the company on behalf of everyone in the union (e.g all the employees), getting better pay and work conditions for the employees through collective bargaining – much harder for the company to just walk away from the union than it is for them to fire one person asking for more.

A union is a group of organizers, lawyers, and charismatic ppl who advocate on behalf of laborers for better working conditions, wages, benefits, and pensions. Their have been problems w organized crime using (past and present) unions to skim union dues off the top to line their own pockets. There have also been issues when a union is too good at what they do. Union’s are around only to support their members. If they become too good then municipalities and companies can become incapable of honoring their contracts. The city of Detroit came into this issue when they capitulated to union demands which lead to an inability to fund pensions as they were too aggressively promised. THis happens most often politicians look for votes from union members by promising to negotiate union forward contracts which are not able to be honored over decades.

The inverse is wo unions, labor has often been exploited to horrific effects. Both sides have pros and cons and society seems to be at its best when there is a balance.

It is strength in numbers.

If workers want higher pay or better benefits or better safety conditions or be treated more humanely, they can go to their boss.

If a single worker goes to the boss and ask for more or better working conditions, the boss can fire them or tell them to leave if they don’t like the job.

If all the workers get together and go to the boss as a single group they can say, change this or we will all leave.

The boss can easily stomach the loss of a single worker, but if all the workers threaten to stop working together he has fewer choices.

Basically if workers unionize they can negotiate with their employers as a single block. This give them power and the ability to negotiate for higher pay, more time off and better safety and health rules.

OF course employers don’t like having to pay workers money and thus hate unions and would like to stop their employees forming unions.

In the past those conflicts have escalate to outright violence, with mine and factory owners employing police, Pinkertons and the national guard to kill and beat workers who unionized against them.

Those days are mostly in the past in the US though. The bosses won and this is why unions in the US have a bad reputation and workers in the US have far fewer rights than their counterparts in places like Europe.

Union means the workers are organized and all negotiate with their bosses together, collectively.

Say you wanted a raise, if you aren’t in a union you’ll have to go to your bosses alone and ask for a raise and try to argue with them and convince them why they should pay you more.

If you were in a union, then the whole union does that at the same time, so instead of individual workers (who are easy to fire and replace) the union says “we ALL want a raise” and if they bosses don’t give them a raise they all could decide to stop working, which would be really hard for the boss to replace them all, so that could lose the business a lot of money.

Which makes the boss more likely to agree to negotiate with the union.

Say you have an employer who doesn’t give you pay and perks you think you are worth.

“I would like a raise,” you aks the boss. “Also, the factory is quite unsafe, I feel very at risk. If you do not fix this issue I think I will quit.”

“No, I don’t think I will,” replies the boss, “Also, I don’t want you spreading these ideas to my other employees. You are fired for asking about this.” They will never actually say that to you, but some may shamelessly do this to you under some dumb excuse.

With a union, what you effectively have are a band of employees who elect a representative to negotiate with the boss on everyones’ behalf. That person goes to the boss and says, “Hello, we would like these things addressed, or else we will all stop working.” (This is what a strike is, btw.)

This puts the boss in a bind. Firing and replacing one person to shut them up is trivial. Firing the whole company at once and hiring for all positions simultaneosly and then re-training everyone hired is not. It could bring down the whole company. They’re forced to negotiate with the workers to stay in business.

That’s the thick nutshell of what a union is ideally supposed to do. It’s a way to consolidate enough of a threat to the company to force their hand when they mistreat you. Not doing so is simply trusting them to keep your best interest in mind, which every single one of them will promise they will do, but many do the opposite.


The union allows employees, as a group, to negotiate a set of rules that must be followed by the employer and employee.

Some examples of rules that may be collectively negotiated:

* If working a full day, guaranteed an hour-long lunch break and two ten-minute rests midday.
* Additional compensation (“overtime”) for work on a holiday, Sunday, overnight, or work beyond a specific number of hours in a workweek / day.
* If asked to operate dangerous machinery, specific safety considerations must be adhered to (e.g., personal protective equipment, training, etc)
* If an employee is to be terminated, it must be for just cause and follow a specific protocol.

In contrast, an “at-will” employee would have to negotiate for these individually. Generally, that person will have less bargaining power and knowledge to do so. For that reason, many employers prefer “at will”.

Scenario A: You go to your boss on your own and say “I’m not going to work for you until you agree to pay me better”.

They can afford to replace you, so they just fire you instead of agreeing to what you say.

Scenario B: you and your coworkers all discuss in private what you want from your employer. You all agree to quit working at the same time and make the same demands from your boss. Your boss can’t afford to replace all of their workers at once, so they’re forced to listen to you and try to come to an agreement.


Scenario A is working without a union. You are protected only by the laws of wherever you live, which can be pretty weak, and are subject to the whims of your boss. You don’t get better conditions unlesses your boss(es) decide they want to give them to you, which they probably won’t because there’s no incentive to do that.

Scenario B is working with a union. You and your colleagues work together to get what’s best for all of you. Since you all have the same interests this is easy.

Your boss does not have your best interests in mind. They want the maximum amount of work from you for the lowest cost. It’s foolish to trust them. Even if they offer you everything you want when you start working there, you can’t trust them to keep it that way. If you don’t have a union they might look to start cutting some of your nice benefits when things get tough. So you need protection.

This is why people hate strike breakers–if you go into work when everyone else is on strike, it makes it more likely that your boss will be able to fire the strikers and carry on without them.

It’s also why employers often discourage talking about pay. They don’t want you to know if you’re being screwed over.

Others have described what unions are. I am only adding a comment to say that many people are not for unions. So your title “why does everyone seem to majorly prefer union” is not necessarily accurate.

There may also be downsides to being in a union. For example, it is often the case where there is no advantage to doing a good job. If you are the best worker, you will get the same raise as the worst, and if there is a layoff, the person with the least seniority goes first, regardless of how well they perform. I have heard this referred to as a “system that breeds mediocrity”.
If the union votes to strike, you can’t go to work even if you want to.
And some unions have long, well documented history of corruption. Workers were forced to kick back a percentage of their wages to keep their job.
On balance I would say unions have done more good than harm for all workers, but they are not the panacea for all employment problems.

Imagine you work in a factory and complain to the owner about poor conditions… he’ll just fire you and hire somebody else who won’t complain.

Imagine all 500 workers in the factory together express their concerns over poor conditions. He’ll be much more likely to address the issues because he can’t just fire and re-hire an entire factory full of workers. That’s what a union does… speaks on behalf of the entire workforce as a collective.

This gives workers more leverage in the relationship, to demand better pay, better working conditions (safety, realistic quotas, hours, etc).

In a union company, workers are paid based on seniority – those that have been in the union the longest get paid the most. In a non-union company any system is possible like paying the people who do the best/most work the most,

The people who don’t do the best/most obviously profer unions.

If it weren’t for the union, I, a female, would not have been paid the same as the men on my team. They had to pay me per the pay schedule with step raises every year. We were all paid the same. I know, by how I was mistreated in other ways, there is no way I would have been paid the same. Yes, there were some workers that abused the system but that’s with everything. And we kept the bastards in line.