Unions in New York

What is a Union?

Unions in New YorkUnions in New York serve as powerful advocates for workers across diverse industries including teachers, construction laborers, carpenters and a wealth of skilled and essential professions necessary for the functions of our local economy. A union is a self-governing organization of employees in a workplace who join together to accomplish common goals. The 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) gave the people in America the right to form and join unions. Through political action and negotiations with employers, unions seek to protect and promote the well-being of their members.

Why Belong to a Union?

Belonging to a union is beneficial in many ways. First and foremost, unionized workers often receive more generous family-friendly benefits than nonunionized workers. Such family-friendly benefits include health care benefits, paid vacation and holidays, and paid sick days.  Unionized workers typically pay lower health care deductibles and a smaller share of the costs for family coverage. In retirement, unionized workers are more likely to be covered by health insurance paid for by their employer.

Unions like to focus on simple propositions. By joining together, working people gain the right to have a voice at work about what they care about. People are able to negotiate a contract with their employer for better wages and a secure retirement. Not only do unions speak out for fairness, but they create a more stable and productive workforce.

On average union members earn better salary and benefits than workers who are not union members. In addition, unionized workers generally receive a pension plan provided by their employers and the employers will more than likely contribute towards the pension plan. This is an advantage because pensions are extremely important as they help maintain the same standard of living after retirement.

Unions reduce wage inequality as they raise wages more for low-wage workers and middle-wage workers rather than for higher-wage workers. Unions in New York and nationally are there more for blue-collar workers than for white-collar workers, and they are even there for workers who do not have a college degree.

Unions play a critical role in securing legislated labor protections and rights such as safety and health, overtime, family and medical leave. Since unionized workers are more informed, they are more likely to benefit from social insurance programs such as unemployment insurance and workers compensation. Joining a union gives job security. Nonunion employees are typically hired “at will,” meaning they can be fired at any time for almost any reason or for no reason at all. However, there are a few exceptions. Employers cannot terminate a worker for discriminatory reasons such as race, religion, age or sex. In contrast, unionized workers can only be fired for “just cause,” meaning the misconduct must be serious enough to support the action of termination. Before an employee can actually be fired, they need go through a grievance procedure, and possibly even arbitration.

How to Start A Union

Both federal and state laws give the right to form unions. It might be a good idea to talk to co-workers about their interest in forming a union. It is also good to get in touch with union organizers that are affiliated with the AFL–CIO because they will help organize and assist employees in forming unions on the job.  If forming a union with coworkers is not possible, then it is encouraged that you join Working America to be a part of the union movement. Working America is the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, and it represents millions of working people who do not have the benefits of union membership at their job. Working America aims to fight for equality and fairness for all working people.

For more information about Unions, visit the Resources page.