By Shauna Agan
Traditionally, labor unions have been known to help workers secure better wages, more benefits, better working conditions, and provide workers with support by representing its members in disputes with management. While this vision of labor unions still holds true today, most people fail to see the most important component of modern labor unions: leverage.
Unions have traditionally provided workers with the power to create a level playing field through collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). However, during tough economic times and a workforce suffering from unemployment, the power dynamic in the workplace has shifted. Those individuals who are fortunate enough to have jobs are not met with the even playingfield they are used to seeing. Businesses continue to demand more and more from its employees while paying the same, if not less, all within the scope of the law.
While unions may not seem to be playing the same role as they have in the past, they serve a much more important purpose today. Labor unions provide its members with leverage and an opportunity to fight back against the employer, once again leveling the playing field. A union contract is not just about higher wages and more benefits; it serves the purpose to instill a sense of dignity amongst workers. It reminds employers and businesses that a CBA is beneficial to both sides, protecting both the employer and the employee.
Without CBAs, the employer can virtually exercise complete control over its employees while at work without legal ramifications. However, those employees who are under a CBA have the ability to fight back. A union contract obligates the employer to follow rules and standards of fairness established through the CBA. Throughout the country, workers represented under a CBA are able to fight back against long hours and low wages. These workers are able to hold employers responsible for its actions and make them comply with the conditions of the previously negotiated agreement.
Unions still play a traditional role in securing better wages, more benefits, and better working conditoins, but in tough economic times they have taken a much broader role. Workers under CBAs are able to fight back agains unjust workplace situations, while those workers not organized have little recourse to the uneven power dynamics. Unions today are protecting the dignity of the American worker, union and nonunion, and setting the current standards of employment to provide the worker with an even playingfield and leverage.