But Now You Know

The search for truth in human action

Why Workers Dislike Unions

We’re told by teachers, politicians, and the media that unions are the best thing ever to happen to people who work. Without them, we’d all be working 80 hour weeks, for pennies per hour, and dying by 30 from how dangerous the conditions are.

And yet, for some reason, most people not only don’t belong to unions, are not even thinking about forming unions, but wouldn’t even want their industry unionized, if they had the chance. In fact, unions are dying out. The odds are that if you don’t more or less inherit a union career because you’re locked into a Company Town situation, you will never join one.

As Americans have gained more freedom to leave unions, they have mostly stopped belonging

As Americans have gained more freedom to leave unions, they have mostly chosen independence

In the 1940s, 35% of American workers belonged to trade unions. Today in the private sector, membership is less than 7%. It is even lower in states that protect your right to have a specific job without joining a union.


Because, in reality, a union takes more freedom away from a worker, than from anyone else.

Pay is Important

It’s not fun, negotiating with an employer for your compensation. Well, not unless you’re really in demand. Then it can be joyful agony, trying to decide which offer is best, and what to require you be paid…but, the rest of the time, it’s unpleasant.

But the joy and pain are both because of how completely important your pay for your work really is. Your entire lifestyle depends on that set of decisions.

Not just how much you’ll be paid, but in what form. Do you want more cash, or would you prefer more days off? Are you better off putting up with a company insurance plan, that is cheaper but less responsive and lacking in choices, or more money and save up for your own checkups? Do you want paid lunch and breaks, or more money and come home sooner?

The problem with a union is that it strips away any control you have over that life-changing question.

You don’t even get to choose when, or how, to negotiate. Union management takes all power away from you, and you have to cross your fingers, praying whatever they think is best happens to be something you can tolerate.

Even under the best circumstances, they’ll be negotiating for the lowest common denominator. What the average worker is worth, and the union will gain from getting. The problem is that in the real world, almost nobody’s average. A good compromise, famously, is one where everyone goes away equally unhappy. With a union, you don’t just have to compromise with an employer, but also with all of the other workers.

You Become a Cog

With a union, you must settle for:

What the average worker is worth…

Diluted by what benefits the union management and corporate management negotiate.

You also lose the power to be paid for your effort, quality, ideas, and unique traits.

Right to work states protect your choice to not join a union, even if there is one at the company where you work

Right to work states protect your choice to not join a union, even if there is one at the company where you work

For example, you may be willing to work extra-hard to make more money, or have more job security. You may not even need to work hard; there may be some special part of your occupation you’re particularly good at.

But most unions avoid the idea of being paid for how well you do the job, replacing it with being paid for how many years you’ve worked. What could be a worse system of payment than this?

Of course it’s bad for the customers, because quality falls by the way-side…and therefore is bad for the company, as its profit depends on that quality. But it’s also bad for you, the worker, whose efforts become meaningless…just hang on to the job for as long as you can, that’s the only way you can make more money.

Likewise, no amount of effort can protect you from being laid off during the slow or hard times, with a typical union contract. You could be the very best at your job, but if you’ve only been there a few years, you’re out the door.

The Worst Kind of Middleman

It’s bad enough that unions harm companies, consumers, and society by causing unemployment, playing insider favoritism, price increases, inefficiency, low quality, reducing non-union worker pay, and other means, plus all the above disadvantages to union members, but what do you gain, in return for this?

  • The right to be forced to pay union dues, whether you find them worthwhile or not.
  • The privilege to have part of that hefty fee spent to bribe government officials with policies you probably don’t actually like, and be punished if you object.
  • The fortune of having some of the rest divvied up among the secretive, corrupt union management and their cronies and masters, for no apparent reason whatsoever.
  • Oh, and the joy of having yet another Tyranny of the Majority government ruling over you, in the form of that union’s quasi-elected crony management.
You have a right to set your own standards, not depend on a bullying middleman

You have a right to set your own standards, not depend on a bullying middleman

It’s no surprise that unions actually reduce real household income.

Not a Number, but a Free Man

The reason most of us eschew labor unions like they’re a porcupine who recently attacked a skunk’s posterior, is that we really are better off as free people, than as vassals of a collective, whose real function seems to be the profit of its “leaders”.

In other words, I’d rather protect my right to earn pay based on what I’m worth, not my seniority, and not be given useless token “compensation” that sucks part of it away, like hourly coffee breaks and a dubious promise of unreasonably high, distant retirement pay, I probably won’t see, once the union bankrupts my employer.

Wouldn’t you?

Words of the Sentient:

Unionism seldom, if ever, uses such power as it has to insure better work; almost always it devotes a large part of that power to safeguarding bad work.
– H. L. Mencken
THe methods by which a trade union can alone act, oare necessarily destructive; its organization is necessarily tyrranical.
– Henry George

Unionism seldom, if ever, uses such power as it has to insure better work; almost always it devotes a large part of that power to safeguarding bad work.

– H. L. Mencken

The methods by which a trade union can alone act, are necessarily destructive; its organization is necessarily tyrranical.

– Henry George


September 7, 2009 - Posted by | Economy, Politics, Society | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. When I was 24 I joined a union, 5 years later I had high pay, no real rights and all that other (not) cool stuff that union workers have. Then p—-d off by an unreasonable increase in dues I left. 2 weeks later I was caught up in a layoff and sent away. My union was only interested in my continued paying of dues and when I left I was no longer of any use to them so… Now looking back I realize just how unfair unions are even though they claim fairer and better pay/treatment blah blah blah… In fact all unions offer is equal poverty and unhappiness.
    I have since got new job in a anti-union company where my skills are appreciated and my pay is better, working conditions are fairer and I remain there to this day.

    Comment by Alf from Albany | November 22, 2016 | Reply

  2. We thought that my husband going to work for a union would be a good thing….. Finally!!! Nothing could be further from the truth. And that is they suck. My husband has been in commercial heating/ cooling for 30 plus years, knows a lot of people in the industry. The union had been after him for years to join & we finally did. Great money but one laid him off after 6 months, the next laid him off after 3 months. We had already paid for 3 months insurance & they drug their feet, put us off, hoping( in my opinion) to keep us in limbo til the 3 months we ALREADY paid could expire. Meanwhile we’re jobless with no insurance,even tho we paid for it ahead of time. They lie, are worthless, & are(again my opinion) veritable liars. They started out years ago maybe a good thing but have morphed into the most disreputable people I’ve ever seen. And they ought to be outlawed.

    Comment by Debi Moore | March 19, 2016 | Reply

  3. Unions are not like they use to be ! But on the contrary my question is why should a person pay union dues if the Union is not going to keep you working that’s part of the due payment ! There wages to keep you going it’s hard enough to try make a living let alone making it on unemployment , pay dues another thing what happened to seniority my husband has been in this union for 5 yrs and they have worked guys that have been there for 3/4 months , my husband has kept this company going caught up jobs , works very hard !

    Comment by Tracy suder | December 28, 2015 | Reply

  4. I used to be anti-union, until I realized my expertise commanded a higher wage. So I’d bring it to bear in an organization, they’d use me for a couple of years to make their margins and cut me loose once they had acquired all they needed from me. In America we need to remain employed and not just for the sake of being employed but for the sake of the continuous application of our skills and knowledge. I am neither lazy nor incompetent, but have found that in my later years where I am most risk adverse, I need to remain employed and want to give an honest days work for an honest wage. I’ve even suggested a wage freeze and even a reduction. No go. They want the cheapest employee they can withstand. Free market so be it. But we are talking about hundreds of thousands of people who are tied up in the intricate web of the American economy. A bank lends me money on good faith, I pay in good faith, then some corrupt idiot goes and screws it all up because of his bottom line. What precipitates is that the bank get screwed. I would think it would be in the best interests of banks to keep people employed so they could go on making their profits. So why aren’t the banks advocating for a more stable labor market? Wouldn’t everyone be a winner if things were more stable? I mean seriously, doesn’t the economy have more to gain by keeping me employed than having to deal with all the losses incurred by my unemployment?

    Comment by James | August 5, 2015 | Reply

    • > I used to be anti-union, until I realized my expertise commanded a higher wage.

      That should MAKE you anti-union. Most unions, being corrupt monopolies, work on seniority, not skill. This harms workers, employer, and society in general.

      Banks do not behave like they are in a free market, because they’re not. They aren’t really capitalist, they’re market socialist. They function in a government-imposed oligopoly whose members are shrinking constantly, but where the barriers to new competitors are so high that it’s effectively illegal to start a new bank. In fact, it’s essentially illegal for even the largest companies in the world to enter into banking, as Microsoft found out, and Wal Mart is finding out now.

      Comment by kazvorpal | August 5, 2015 | Reply

  5. The people who wrote these anti union comments obviously know nothing about history and were they would be without the unions who fought to make things the way they are here in the U.S. Who will the scabs run to when the unions are gone and there being screwed working in sweat shops at the top 1 percent keep increasing. Funny thing is ive worked union and non union. And the union workers are a much more productive group contrary to what the media wants people to believe.

    Comment by james Clanin | May 18, 2014 | Reply

    • The opposite is true. What you think you know about unions is a lie, to keep you submissive to them. In reality, working conditions were improving faster before unions became common, and froze in place once they did. The work week had fallen from 70+ hours to 40…but the unions and labor laws codified 40, freezing it there. Without that, it would have continued falling. You’re stuck working 40 hour weeks because of them.

      Unions steal your freedom of choice. They rob you of your right to get paid for being exceptional. They strip away your choice of how to get paid…maybe you don’t want as many coffee breaks and vacation days, and a fat retirement that will bankrupt the employer and leave you broke, but more money now instead. But you can’t get it, because the union bosses are busy lining their own pockets, leaving you with the scraps.

      Comment by kazvorpal | May 19, 2014 | Reply

  6. Why should anyone want to pay a union so you can work someplace? That’s dumb. Essentially, you are giving away a whole lot of money over a year’s time to a bunch of people that contribute nothing to society. You are paying for their lifestyle and what do they do in return? Nothing that’ s what.

    Comment by Nelson M. | October 4, 2013 | Reply


      Comment by Don Obrien Sr. | April 25, 2014 | Reply

  7. Unions are a wonderful thing. Unfortunately all you need is one bad apple and they’re protected by a union. Then they cause a real problem for a very very long time.

    Comment by Rick | April 25, 2013 | Reply

    • Unions are a bad thing, for the reasons listed in the article. And because they protect bad apples, which are hardly a rarity, they accumulate bad apples. Productive workers can go elsewhere and get rewarded proportionately for their efforts, while the lazy ones find themselves better off in the union environment, where they’re rewarded for doing the absolute minimum.

      Comment by kazvorpal | April 25, 2013 | Reply

    • Unions are bad period…that is the whole point of this web site. There is no excuse for a union.

      Comment by Nelson M. | October 3, 2013 | Reply

      • People should be free to join unions, but not forced to. Then, if you’re correct and they’re bad, they will die on their own.

        Comment by kazvorpal | October 3, 2013 | Reply

  8. While searching for the pros and cons of unions I came across this site.

    We were bought out about six years ago. The first thing they did was take away two days of vacation, took double time away for coming in on a day off to time and a half.

    With in the first year the conducted a market analisys. The out come, which they told us in a meeting, was that we were grossly underpaid of industry standard. Not just underpaid but GROSSLY.

    As per Fortune 500 Magazine, the average pay for an Operator II with in our compaby is $26.75 Per Hour. I’m an Operator III (Highest)and don’t come close to that. I asked our HR Rep she said “They Must Be Union”. The company puts out news letter/magazine every quarter telling us of record breking profits amoung other things.

    There are only two other facilities that are unionized, we are not one of them.

    Just recently our management got wind of us organizing. Today I was told by my manager that our Regional had said at the meeting tuesday morning “Give me untill December 1st, if I don’t have you up tp industry standard by then. I will welcom the union you deserve it.

    My question is, why all of a sudden after learning that we want to unionize is He so anxious to get us up to industry standard in less than two months, when they, he, as known that has been a main concern for the past five years, And done nothing?

    Comment by Robert | October 23, 2010 | Reply

    • What you describe does not address why unions do more harm than good.

      If you unionize, you will be forced to accept only the lowest common denominator pay and benefits for your number of years of work. Even the monopoly pay the union might end up extorting from your employer won’t make up for that loss.

      Note that your employer took away two days of vacation, double time pay, et cetera…imagine if you get that back, but end up laid off three months out of the year, or paid less in actual cash. This is the tradeoff that, 100% of the time, comes from such benefits. What you are paid is ALWAYS viewed, by the employer, as your GROSS cost: Benefits, taxes, and actual pay. YOU, not your employer, pay 100% of your health insurance, pay BOTH halves of your social security/FICA tax (15%, not 7.5%), et cetera.

      Comment by kazvorpal | October 29, 2010 | Reply

    • Companies are run by people, some of those people are despicable. They often justify their existence by how much money they can take away from its employees (savings) in order to justify the ‘good’ work that they are doing. That person would do well in a union shop. I’ve worked for people like this, instead of working better and really doing a good job, they’d rather take it from you because its there and its easier. Shame on those ppl.

      Comment by Nelson M. | October 3, 2013 | Reply

  9. screw corporations. with my union i never worry about gettin fired im always look forwards to my pay raises every six months plus alot more. go teamsters

    Comment by rex | October 4, 2010 | Reply

    • You can also look forward to getting laid off, especially if you are low in seniority, and especially because your employer is being ripped off by meaningless annual raises and lack of a relationship between performance and security.

      And while you may not be able to comprehend this, in the long run never having to worry about getting fired in the way YOU mean it is more or less like bragging that you never have to get your fat ass off the couch, because your android servant brings your pork rinds and beer to you.

      In other words, your job security should be related to your performance, not how long you’ve had the job…a meaningless criterion.

      Likewise, your PAY should be directly linked to your performance.

      In real life, you actually suffer, yourself, from lack of a relationship between what you accomplish and what you are paid. You end up being an employment couch potato, with no way to get ahead through your honest effort…so you have to focus on how you just get meaningless raises

      Comment by kazvorpal | October 15, 2010 | Reply

      • Amen to that you nailed it the union backs laziness, ,,not performance or by qualifications, ,, I work with a bunch of lazy union one’s that pay those dues just for that reason! Sickening they all need put out !

        Comment by Ginger Estes | May 17, 2015 | Reply

    • Take a look at the recent union problem with Hostess. A few dozen ppl caused the loss of 18 thousand other jobs in the community. Your company will be Hostess sooner or later.

      Comment by Nelson M. | October 3, 2013 | Reply

  10. I went Union in 1984, strictly for the pay! After transferring to another “house” for better seniority, I ultimatly went from first to last in my shop. when asked by the supv. for suggestions I gave a few, items tools the shop needed. Then supv. went into one of his many rages, directed at me. “you want my job, do ya, do ya”, No I dont wany your job. For past and present reasons, he felt very threatened. Being the only female in a male dominated industry,and no.1 in seniority over a bunch of guys off the street. that was my last suggestion! 9 years of harrassment, belittling treatment and assignments I went to H.R. head and warned her, “they’re working on getting rid of me.” H.R.”is there anything in youre file?” “no” I answ-ered, nothing.”Well thats normally how They go about it!” I
    then continued to work easily harder than anyone else in my shop. In spite of the occasionnal set-up{given job with inadeqate, workers, supplies or info) 4hrs to do what reg. assigneed guys do in 2-3 days! 18yrs into my union job, was finally “written up”, for poor work performance, by head of dept..The write up was for not doing a job, and then hiding the paperwork associated with the job(w.o.) I completed 2 of the w.o.s dispatched at 2:20. Returned to complete paper-work that was printed out then rushed to shop to get ready to leave, only to find everyone else in shop was changed and sitting, like every other day!
    Since the job I chose, exposed me to so many individuals with one thing in common, the Union, protects the weak,lazy,prone to trouble, and I now 51 yrs of age and soon to take a voluntary lay-off to tend to my degenerated disc dicease and other disc related ailments compounded by my nonstop work ethic I inherited from my up bringing are left to suffer. With little to no compensation. The Union has done me well in the “man’s world”. After the fact, my shop steward said “you should have leaned on a shovel all day” when faced with injuries from a job digging a 9’x12’x9′ deep hole for the plumbers. Instead I dug my ___ off. Like a good employee should. Next time my supv. wont have a 51 year old female to bully, he’ll have to pick one of “his boys”

    Comment by k.t. smith | March 2, 2010 | Reply

    • In a union, you are not paid for your productivity or how well you do your job, in a union shop, you pay for dependency.

      Comment by Nelson M. | October 3, 2013 | Reply

  11. I am working for a hospital that is unonized. The union has done nothing for me. All they do is protect the half-assed workers that deserve to be fired. It seems to me that any solid complaint that a worker may have, the union always seems to side with management. I think they just want to keep as many employees as they can so that they may keep on collecting the dues. They seem to talk employees with legitimate complaints out of making a grievance over a real issue.

    Comment by aileen | October 15, 2009 | Reply

  12. I have been both in non-union and union workplaces. I prefer the non-union workplace. Why? Too many rules and regulations to follow in union shops. When layoffs come, they come, and you are not really protected. You are severely restricted when it comes to things like promotions or learning new technology. Unions are not merit-based. That is their biggest downfall. If I fall because I am not smart enough, or don’t work hard enough, well then it’s on me, and I have no one else to blame. With unions you can be the smartest, hardest working person there is, and none of it matters. There’s no incentive to really excel at anything. Unions also tolerate and perpetuate workplace bullying and horizontal workplace violence in the form of marginalizing people they don’t like, and promoting people who they do like. I am not a right-winger or GOP type – far from it – actually tend to be liberal politically, but I still don’t care for unions.

    Comment by wiser in AZ | September 22, 2009 | Reply

    • “Wiser” I couldn’t agree with you more. This is the first time I have worked under a union…I HATE IT! Do you know if a union member can withdrawal from the union?

      Comment by aileen | October 15, 2009 | Reply

  13. I had belonged to a union for 6+ years and can tell you they definitely keep the worker down. The favoritism leads to a disgruntled employee. The better or more intelligent (educated) worker gets ignored while family or friends get promoted. It creates apathy and slaves. This goes on in all unions and only breeds negative feelings in the workplace, not conducive to productivity. Unions have a stranglehold on the government in the country and only serve to dummy down the general public. The free market, which promotes ingenuity and competition, should prevail.

    Comment by Frank D'Orsi, Jr. | September 21, 2009 | Reply

  14. As a former union steward I found that most employees don’t like paying union dues but they can sure come running when they have problems. Many managers tell them if they hope to make it in the company (be it government or civilian) they would definitely hurt their prospects by joining a union and many of them are lied to constantly by management telling them that unions are the cause of any and most problems that the business is experiencing. Let that union disappear and watch the benefits disappear. The need to be cozy with management is also a leading factor for workers turning away from union. They hurt themselves. What they need to do is look closely at where the benefits are really going and acknowledge that the chances of their being in the rarified area is slim to none and join a union to help the average worker. There is strength in numbers not in lone wolves.

    Comment by Ada | September 11, 2009 | Reply

    • What makes you think that the union causing the problems is a lie? Blind faith, perhaps?

      In fact, workers tend to make more money where there are no unions. Check out the link above for statistics on that.

      And no, in numbers you BECOME a number. You are paid what the lowest common denominator is worth. There is no way around that. You are repeating all the union myths that people have learned, the hard way, are completely untrue.

      If you were correct, then people in right to work states would join unions voluntarily. But they know better.

      Comment by kazvorpal | September 11, 2009 | Reply

      • “You are paid what the lowest common denominator is worth. There is no way around that. ”

        funny, actually. I worked in a non-union shop and was treated by the management far worse than I had been when I was in a union shop.

        in the non-union shop, management was not interested in listening to any of our concerns. they made the appropriate noises that they were listening but in the end, it was apparent to everyone involved, they had no intention of changing anything.

        Comment by oh.please | December 6, 2009 | Reply

        • Bad management is no excuse for poor management..sometimes its best to cut your losses.

          Comment by Nelson M. | October 3, 2013 | Reply

  15. […] Why Workers Dislike Unions « Robbing Peter to Pay for Paul’s Vote […]

    Pingback by Destructive Unions « Words of the Sentient | September 11, 2009 | Reply

  16. After being a union worker, non-union worker ,manager and self-employed I can tell you that unions do not matter to the good employees. It is the bottom 10-15% who cling to it. With unions, favoritism runs rampant. It is far worse than any company I have ever worked for. If you are in the “in” group or in the majority race or ethnicity the union will fight for a real good for nothing employee. If not, you are better off in an open shop by far.

    Also, the basic idea that the worker is too ignorant to stand up for themselves is degrading.

    Comment by Sid | September 10, 2009 | Reply

  17. More support for the dislike of unions by workers:

    A Gallup poll says over 60% of Americans actively dislike unions:


    Comment by kazvorpal | September 10, 2009 | Reply

  18. […] Why Workers Dislike Unions « Natural Rights, Virginia-Style […]

    Pingback by Taxing the Fruit of Your Labor « Words of the Sentient | September 7, 2009 | Reply

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