By Jessica Berget, Editor-in-Chief
There’s a lot of talk about strikes right now, and it has got me thinking about unions.
I’ve worked a union job before, and as much as I appreciate job security, good pay, benefits, and some of the other perks that come with those jobs, there are some downsides to them. Unions have done a lot of great things for working conditions. They are the reason we don’t work 12-hour days seven days a week. They helped create the working class fighting for better pay and work conditions, so they’re super important to have. But I think it’s also important to look at some of the problems with unions.
For instance, that extreme job security may sound like a pretty sweet deal, but it is something that can and will be exploited. A nurse by the name of Elizabeth Wettlaufer killed seven people over two decades in an Ontario nursing home. She was fired from the homes that she worked at, but she was still able to work as a nurse because the Ontario Nurses Association intervened. According to a previous article from the Other Press, they defended Wettlaufer twice, changing her firing to a voluntary resignation and even giving her $2000 and a letter of recommendation in 2014 as part of a union settlement. Talk about taking job security too far.
I’m not saying unions are the blame for this, or that this is proof that they are all like this, but it is a good argument for why we need to modify unions since certain aspects can be detrimental.
In my experience working a union gig for a year, I have also seen my fair share of negative side effects. Because it is fairly difficult to get fired from a union job—albeit in cases of stealing or other extreme examples—there is a problem with employees taking advantage of this and putting no effort into the job besides showing up on time everyday, or even being difficult or aggressive with the other employees. In my time working there, an employee threw a chair at another worker and they only got suspended for a week. Any other non-union job—they definitely would have been fired.
Of course, not all union employees are like this, but this is just my experience in my one year as a union worker. Unions serve an incredibly important purpose, but sometimes the benefits they provide can be taken advantage of.