Opinions & Editorials

Justifying the Existence of Unions

By Julian Roumeliotis


Over the last seven decades America has seen a great change in labor structure. The practices that have been adopted have had a negative effect on the American worker. 

A defining feature of American industry from 1940 to the early 1980s was the unionization of workers. The employees of a company had a union to collectively bargain with their employer. Unions are crucial for maintaining a balance between management and the employee. 

Workers, when represented by their employers, do not have their interests valued. Without respect to the balance of power in industry, assets of production become compromised. Employees are an asset of production. A lack of representation has left American workers exploited.

“Knot Divided” Illustration by JohnTaylor Wildfeuer/The Guardsman

A cornerstone of post-WWII America was its large and growing middle class. When companies were not required to pay their workers what their work required, America saw a decrease in the size of the middle class. At the unions’ height in the 1950’s, one third of private sector workers belonged to a union. 

According to the congressional Research service and White House archives, 20% of Americans belonged to a union in 1983. Since the 1980s America has suffered a drop in adults who are a part of the middle class by nearly 10%. 

The middle class continues to shrink almost every year. Today only 6% of Americans belong to a union. The decrease in union membership has reduced the wellbeing of the workers. When workers organize, their demands have power. 

One individual alone does not have the ability to demand better treatment from an employer. A single position can easily be replaced by an employer. However, when a sector of a company demands better treatment, the potential for change within a workplace is much greater. 

Workers share a common interest in industry. A company cannot ignore the demands of employees if a potential strike threatens the interests of an employer. The employer must come to recognize and meet the workers’ needs or the company is unable to function. 

Without unions the status of workers being valued members of society would not have been achieved. The end of child labor in America was built upon the unionization of mine and factory workers. The National Labor Union was successful in limiting the ten-hour workday requirement for unionized workers beginning in the late 1800s and early 1900s. 

Workers need a voice in the production in which they take part. If they are left without representation, employers have no obligation to provide them with the necessary compensation they deserve. 

The Guardsman