Legal Matters: Why start a union in your workplace?

This article was originally published by The Hamilton Spectator.

Q: Why you might want a union in your workplace

A: Unions are getting a lot of attention right now. You’ve likely heard about the 55,000 education workers narrowly avoiding returning to the picket lines, the GO Transit workers entering into a new agreement after a four-day strike, and Teaching and Research Assistants at McMaster University on strike right now.

If you don’t have a union in your workplace, it may be a good time to start thinking about whether a union would benefit you and your colleagues. Unions can help workers to subvert some of the power imbalance with their employer. In most businesses, owners want to keep labour and other costs as low as possible to maximize profit. When an individual worker asks for a wage increase to match the rising cost of living, the employer has complete discretion over the decision. Whether they agree will largely depend on whether raising your wage will ultimately benefit the business. For example, is the cost of giving you a raise less than the cost of finding your replacement?

With a union, all employees work together to protect their shared interests and can increase the quality of working standards through the cycle of the collective bargaining process. Things like raises, job security, pensions, benefits, regular hours, and parental leave become much more attainable when working together. With a union, the employer loses the ability to simply replace you, they are required to engage in the bargaining process and come to a mutually beneficial agreement with the workers.

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