Labor unions are a hot topic for debate.  So-called pro-business conservatives often pander to groups that are very pro-union, however, at the same time fiscally conservative politicians are typically anti.  Moreso, so-called anti-business liberals are very pro-union, however, liberals often consist of urban elites that have no use for labor unions.  Unions are constantly brought into politics, however, they shouldn’t be.  Labor unions effective two groups of individuals; those in unions and those employing union workers.  However, at the same time, unions can effective consumers.  This post evaluates the pros and cons of labor unions without the politics.


Note that all of these pros and cons are both pros and cons.  That sounds confusing, but it’s easy to see what that means in this first pro/con.

Pro/Con: Higher Wages

Higher wages are always a pro for union workers.  Higher wages mean that their union has effectively bargained with their employer to get them a better wage.  A better or higher wage means more money for union workers.  In some cases, high wages actually help the employer as well.  When wages are higher, workers often feel that they are valued and employee morale is boosted.  This means harder working and dedicated employees.  So, yes, occasionally a union getting employees higher wages also helps the employer.

Of course, humans are naturally inefficient and higher wages don’t always equal increased productivity or efficiency.  Unionized labor can occasionally take advantage of a union’s power to get them higher wages.  They merit the benefits of higher wages without increasing productivity.  This is burdensome for the employer and therefore the consumer.  Similarly, when wages are increased to an extent that the overall cost of a product or service increases, a business will see a decrease in revenue and possibly profit.  This could mean that the consumer pays the cost of higher wages.

Labor unions can result in higher wages but also reduced revenue.

Labor unions can result in higher wages but also reduced revenue.

Pro/Con: Better Working Conditions

Just like pay, better working conditions are always a positive result for workers.  Better working conditions can lead to happier, healthier, and more productive employees and therefore lead to more revenue and dedicated workers.  Yet, at the same time, when unions demand too much of employers, the result can be negative for the employer.  Some unions will demand very short hours, heavily regulated workplaces, and extensive benefits.  In the short-run, these benefits are great for employees, however, expensive benefits and workplace upkeep can result in an inefficient work environment and decreased revenue for the employees.  Often times, the employee will end up paying for their extensive benefits in some form or another.

Pro/Con: Union Determines Disciplinary Action

First off, most of the time, when a union gets to determine disciplinary action, it only hurts the employee and company.  The only positive result of a union determining disciplinary action is reduced HR costs and less stress on management to deal with employee problems.  However, when a union gets to determine the ways in which workers are disciplined, disciplinary actions can be far and in-between.  When workers aren’t disciplined and performance isn’t properly monitored, massive inefficiencies arise.  Most of the time, for workers, unions protect the employee ensuring employees don’t use aggressive and abusive punishment or disciplinary action.  When unions determine disciplinary action, it also ensures a higher level of job security.

Labor unions lead to better working conditions but also higher production costs.

Labor unions lead to better working conditions but also higher production costs.

Pro/Con: More Bargaining Power

When unions have more leverage over an employer or company, it means better protection for its employees and more benefits.  It’s important that workers have a voice in a company no matter how large.  Large unions are able to act as one major body that ensures the security, safety, well-being, and voice of a company’s employees.  While at the same time, groups like ANH point out that this bargaining power can lead to the abuse of a company or executives.