How to Get a Union Job

Unions Protect Workers From Low Wages and Dangerous Work Conditions

Apprentices working on training production line
Monty Rakusen/Cultura/Getty Images

Unions are found in every industry. They are responsible for higher wages, shorter work weeks and safer work environments. Belonging to a union gives you certain protections, so union positions are highly sought after.

Benefits of Union Jobs

Union workers typically have better wages. For instance, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly income of a non-union worker was $717.

For a union worker, it was $917. Over the course of the year, that's almost $10,000 in increased salary, due to belonging to a union. 

Union employees also have access to better benefits; 93 percent of union workers have medical benefits, while only 69 percent of non-union employees have benefits. Medical debt is the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States, so healthcare benefits are a huge asset to employees. 

Non-union workers are usually "at-will" employees, meaning they can be fired for virtually any reason at all, as long as it is not based on discrimination regarding gender, race or religion. If an employer decides they do not like your hair length or if you come in five minutes late, they have very right to fire you immediately. 

Union employees have greater job security. To fire you, there must be a legitimate cause. There has to be evidence of actual misconduct or poor performance, and there is typically a process that takes place, including arbitration with union leaders.

 

You also have strength in numbers. If conditions are getting dangerous or hours are too long, you can work together to lobby company leadership without fear of retaliation. Working together as a union, you have much more power. 

How to Find a Union Job

Union jobs can be more difficult to find than other forms of work.

As the economy worsened, more people sought union work for greater protection, particularly when layoffs became more common. 

To get a union job, look for major employers and companies that work with unions already. You will typically find that information right on the company website. 

There are also union-specific job banks. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), a national trade union center and the largest federation of unions in the United States, posts union listings by industry on their website

Some unions will post a job listing on other major job search sites, such as CareerBuilder or Monster. You can also attend labor council meetings in your county to meet union leaders and find out what companies are hiring. 

Union jobs are highly desired, particularly now in a rocky economy. Union workers have higher wages, greater job security and more power to influence company leadership than non-union workers. Because of these factors, competition to enter the unions can be stiff, so you often need to spend a good deal of time networking with union members to get hired. It is a long process but has significant benefits in terms of higher wages and employment.