Unions Restrict What Workers Can Get Paid

Most of us work day-in and day-out to make a wage we can live on hoping that our good work will be recognized by our employer and will result in an increase in our wages. We hope that our initiative and drive will move us above our coworkers who are not perhaps as hardworking or talented. This is a version of the “American Dream.” But for approximately 8 million workers they cannot get rewarded for their individual effort, or talent, or initiative. You see they are union workers who have had their wages negotiated for them by bargaining representatives. The “union” tells workers that they will fight to get them a good wage with some good increases over the life of the contract. Sounds good doesn’t it? But did you know that the “union” also restricts what workers can get paid?

Giving an individual union employee this raise is not allowed under the NLRA.

According to an article in The Heritage Foundation Few Americans know that unions also set a ceiling on workers’ wages: Businesses effectively may not pay individual workers more than the amount bargained for by the union.” What it breaks down to is this. An employer may not give a union employee a raise for individual effort or achievement. They must give a raise to all the employees in the bargaining unit or to no one. The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that giving such an increase to an individual is a circumvention of the authority of the union to be the sole bargaining agent for the employee(s) and thus is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
As an individual who has worked hard all his life to earn a pay check based upon my good work I found this circumstance to be outrageous. Fortunately there are some Congressional representatives that are trying to change that situation with the introduction of the RAISE Act in both the Senate and the House. RAISE stands for Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees. According to an article published on the SHRM website “On April 18, 2012, Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., introduced H.R. 4385, the Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees (RAISE) Act, in the House of Representatives. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced companion legislation, S. 2371, on April 26, 2012.”
What this bill does is introduce language to amend the National Labor Relations Act by inserting “…nothing in either section 8(a)(1) or 8(a)(5), or a collective bargaining contract or agreement renewed or entered into after the date of enactment of the RAISE Act, shall prohibit an employer from paying an employee in the unit greater wages, pay, or other compensation for, or by reason of, his or her services as an employee of such employer, than provided for in such contract or agreement.” The amendment would not change any current union contract but would apply to any agreements negotiated in the future.
To my way of thinking this good legislation from a union member’s standpoint, it not only provides protection of the contract but also allows individual achievement. The current union contract method promotes working to the lowest common denominator mentality. After all why should you work hard if everyone gets paid the same? Now with this legislation people may work to a higher level in the hopes of achieving more. Of course it will be fought “tooth and nail” by unions because they know that if workers discover they can get rewarded for their own efforts they will quickly realize that they don’t really need the union.
If you want to learn more about RAISE check out the following:
Bills Introduced to Make Merit Pay Amendments to Labor Law
RAISE Act would permit merit pay-raises
RAISE Act Lifts Pay Cap on 8 Million American Workers

7 thoughts on “Unions Restrict What Workers Can Get Paid”

  1. I have always felt that the biggest negative with Unions is the fact that employers could not reward stellar employees without rewarding those with sub par performance. Having said that, I believe the Raise Act to be nothing more than a laughable union busting tactic.
    The biggest drawback to the Raise Act is the irresponsible application of the law by employers. Those who work salaried positions, whether a secretary or senior VP, already know that merit raises can be grossly unfair and inherently political. Unscrupulous employers could (and would) use Union merit raises to breed dissension and cause discontent within the local. These employers would care less about individual performance as they reward those employees who would cause the most controversy. Employers could (and would) encourage Union employees to undermine their local Union as an unspoken condition to receive these merit raises. Employers would manipulate employees without end just to break the Union.
    The Heritage foundation (really?)LOL

    • Well, any tool can be used incorrectly but we have to start somewhere. I don’t think you give union employees enough credit to see that an employer might be misusing the tool. In that case all it would do is strenghten the union resolve. Unless you know something we don’t about the possibility of dissension among union members because of pay levels.
      How would you suggest we offer individual incentives in a union environment?

  2. I experience this first hand when I was much younger and a lot of companies were still required to pay Union Dues with little to no actual benefit. I experience this today with my part time job. It is Union. The Union protects people that do not want to work and do not do their job so it is impossible to fire them. Good people are hard to retain because they have to pick up the load. The slackers do what is needed to keep the Union behind them. The Union limits your pay and no matter what contract they dispute, the only one that benefits is the Union. There is nothing to support or encourage good workers to stay and excel. There are benefits offered to everyone but the benefits do not cover anything and require an out of pocket to get quality care. The employees are paid poorly so most do not even go to the doctor for fear of the costs. As you can tell, I am not a supporter of Unions.

  3. When I am up for a performance review, I compile a detailed list of this last year’s accomplishments, additional responsibilities taken on, skills learned, etc and showcase the year while asking for a salary increase. I have always felt bad for my husband, who is forced to belong to a union and doesn’t have this freedom to stand on his merits. I think there are many cons to the particular model used by unions.
    Thanks for your thought-provoking article–I really appreciate your honest opinion. Many people are not so forthcoming for fear of offending a union!

  4. I think the kind of flexible compensation system described is a fantasy. Most large organizations, in my experience, have very rigid compensation plans. My wife is a manager at a 4000 employee hospital. She has one direct report she would like to reward for his stellar performance, but there is no mechanism in place for her to do that. The best my boss can do for me is a pat on the back and a hearty thank you.

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