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Big Labor sells unionization as the be-all, end-all for workplace woes. But as much as they tell us that they will solve diversity problems, increase wages, or make the workplace more ‘woke,’ the reality is that all of that is left up to collective bargaining, which can leave much to be desired.
For instance, after unionization it takes an average of 465 days to sign the first contract. So, after that hard-fought effort, it will probably be a while until any of the union’s promises are realized (if at all).
Once there is a contract, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t include everything the union promised. Collective bargaining is just that–bargaining. The union won’t know what they can achieve through collective bargaining until they actually sit down at the table.
On top of that, contracts typically expire after three or four years, limiting flexibility. That might be why non-union pay is higher than unionized pay; wage increases can’t be quickly implemented because they need to go through the collective bargaining process first.
Collective bargaining units can include many different types of employees, which makes it difficult to meet the diverse needs of each employee. Take Profesiosnal Employee bargaining units, for example. These units may be comprised of teachers, guidance counselors, school nurses, and librarians (just to name a few job titles). It’s crazy to assume that one singular contract can meet the needs of all of these job titles, where the backgrounds and skills needed range from medical/RN/LPN, psychology, education, and library sciences.
And it isn’t good for recruiting teachers, either.
Collective bargaining means teachers of all subjects receive the same compensation. So, science and math teachers—positions that are usually difficult to fill—must receive the same salary and benefits package as English teachers—a much easier position to fill. The uniformity of collective bargaining makes it impossible for unionized schools to create unique hiring incentives for those roles. Students and teachers both suffer when a district has difficulty hiring.
Just like any process, collective bargaining has its limitations. Unionization is not a silver bullet for workplace issues no matter what NEA, SEIU, or any other union tells us.