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 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!
Here are just a few of the things working people like us, joining together in unions, have won:
- The 40 hour week
- The Eight hour day
- Overtime Pay
- Paid vacations and holidays
- Health plans
- Higher wages for union members
- Protection from unfair firings
- Safety and health protections on the job
- Fairness in promotions and job assignments
- Sick Leave
- Vacation Benefits
Did You Know?
- In private industry, union workers earn 22% more than non-union workers.
- In public sector employment, union workers earn 21% more than non-union workers.
- Union women earn 26% more than non-union 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).