The atmosphere of the workplace changes over time. One hundred years ago, wages were dismal and work hours long. The age of workers was not regulated and many children found themselves working to help their families. Understandably, these working conditions were not popular and needed to be addressed. Unions were established that stood up for worker’s rights and working conditions. Labor laws were put into effect to protect workers and businesses.
At the time the unions were established and for many years after, unions had power that enabled them to keep wages, time off, job benefits, hours and other working conditions favorable. Over time, as jobs have vanished, the union’s power and influence had diminished. As people have a more difficult time finding employment, the employers have the edge. Workers are more apt to take whatever hours, wages and working conditions they can get. This has put unions in a precarious position. Many employers feel they can’t keep up with rising wages and medical insurance that unions want for their membership. Because of this rise in expenses for employers, jobs are cut to offset the cost. This causes fewer jobs and more job seekers giving employers more of an upper hand. Public opinion of unions has changed from a positive one to one of blame for the high cost of products and services. Government agencies that have unionized employees are taking more of a hard line on negotiating benefits.
Since the advances that unions made over time, there are many labor laws on the books. These laws have been created because of the hard work that unions have done since their inception. Labor laws regulate how many hours someone can be made to work. There are minimum wage laws ensuring wages are regulated. With the creation of Obama Care there is health insurance available to everyone. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has strict regulation on workplace safety and health situations. If unions were to dissolve, these laws would still enable workers to maintain wages, reasonable working hours, access to health care and ensure a safe working environment.
To remain effective, unions will have to work more with management to benefit both sides. Unions will need to remain reasonable in their expectations in regards to wages and health care. For the time being, unions are not in a great place. Only time will tell if the strength that was once enjoyed by unions will remain in the future.