Do you know the difference?

...If your workplace is non-union

  • You are an "employee at will".  Your employer can discipline or fire you at any time for any reason; you have no recourse.
  • "Open door" policy means the employer will listen to you... and then do whatever he or she wants.
  • Employer determines wages, benefits and other terms and conditions of work.  If you are not satisfied, you only option is to find another job
  • Wages, benefits and other terms and conditions can be changed by the employer at any time.
  • Hirinf and promotion is up to the discretion of the employer.

...if you join a union and have a contract

  • Discipline, up to and inclusing discharge, is subject to a grievance procedure and binding arbitration, depending on the terms of your contract.
  • Contract negotioations require bothe sides - labor and management - to listen, and reach reasonable compromises acceptable to both sides.
  • Wages, benefits and working conditions are negotiated.  If you are not satified, you can work for chnages during contract negotiations.
  • Neither labor or management can make unilateral changes to a signed contract.  If modifications are necessary during the life of a contract, both sides must agree.
  • Hiring and promotion is covered by contract.  Senority and other factors can be written into the agreement.


Unless workers have a union contract, they are at the mercy of company policies. Most employment handbooks clearly state that policies are "guidelines only and ... not a contract of employment" or that the terms of the handbook are subject to change without notice.

Even under a company's "open-door" policy, there is nothing to really make anyone believe that the policy is meaningful. To the contrary, there is often a powerful conflict of interest in these "open door" policies because workers are complaining about management's decisions to a board or body that has been handpicked by management.

It's not surprising then that workers without a union are often subject to arbitrariness and unfairness on the job. Workers without a contract are considered "employees at will." That means they can be fired at any time and without reason, the only exceptions are termination for discrimination, whistle-blowing or union organizing.

In fact, when looking at laws affecting workers, it's good to think of this: laws like the minimum wage, worker's comp, overtime, OSHA and ERISA (governing pensions and profit sharing) provide the bare minimum that applies to everyone. For non-union workers, however, the bare minimum becomes a ceiling - no one promises rights any higher. For union workers, on the other hand, the bare minimum is just the floor - they always bargain for rights and benefits above the bare minimum set by the law.

No surprises then that union wages are better, union shops are safer and union jobs are more secure!

If you are interested in organizing your workplace, know of someone, or an employer that may be interested in organizing, please contact Rick Engelhart or call 1-360-736-9979 extension 149


Here are just a few of the things working people like us, joining together in unions, have won:

  1. The 40 hour week
  2. The Eight hour day
  3. Overtime Pay
  4. Paid vacations and holidays
  5. Health plans
  6. Higher wages for union members
  7. Pensions
  8. Protection from unfair firings
  9. Safety and health protections on the job
  10. Fairness in promotions and job assignments
  11. Sick Leave
  12. Vacation Benefits

Did You Know?
- In private industry, union workers earn 22% more than nonunion workers.
- In public sector employment, union workers earn 21% more than nonunion workers.
- Union women earn 26% more than nonunion women.
- African Americans who belong to a union earn 25% more.
- Hispanics who belong to a union earn 49% more.
(Source: U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Earnings, January 2005).