An electrician union is an organization of electricians united and working together to achieve higher standards in the trade, better pay, and safer working conditions.
The union leaders will bargain with employers and negotiate labour contracts. The most important function of a union is to improve the working environment.
This may include wage negotiations, workplace policies and procedures, complaint procedures, hiring and firing rules, rules for advancement, extra benefits, and safety practices.
The agreements set out in the contract are binding, and must be followed by all union members and employers.
Unions, in general, originated in Europe. The Industrial Revolution opened the doors for many unskilled labourers to join the workforce. Basically all you needed was a willingness to work, and you could get a job.
There were no age limits, no limits on the amount of hours you worked per day and no standard of pay. All of the power was in the hands of the employer, and workers had to comply or lose their job.
Since there were more people needing work than jobs available, many people were willing to put up with the worst imaginable conditions.
A few people began to unite and organize the other workers to form a unified bargaining front. The company could not afford to have the entire workforce on strike, and therefore agreed to many of the terms requested by the workers.
In most countries, unions were illegal for many years, and some economists argued that fixing wages should remain illegal. Penalties for attempting to organize a union were severe, and in some countries included execution.
But that didn’t stop organizers, unions were formed and even began to gain power politically. This resulted in the formation of labour laws that not only legalized the organization of unions, but also defined a code of conduct between and employer and workers wishing to organize into a union.
Not all occupations benefit from unionization. A dentist, for example would not need to belong to a union. Trade workers and skilled laborers however usually do benefit from belonging to unions.
Traditionally, belonging to a union was a source of pride, but recently there has been a lot of controversy over whether unions really are working in the best interest of their members.
The purpose of a union is to ensure workers are treated fairly, and to give them some power to change the situation if they are not.
In the past, factory owners made all the rules and held all the power. A worker could be forced to work 12-14 hours a day without overtime pay, and usually without an adequate number of breaks. They could be forced to work in unsafe and dangerous conditions, and were often paid much less than they were worth.
The unions changed all that. As a member of a union, you are guaranteed a fair salary, safe working conditions, clearly defined working hours, and set breaks.
You also receive additional benefits, which may include eyeglasses, dental care, prescription drugs and pension plans.
Although an electrician union can offer many benefits, they demand a lot from their members as well.
You must pay union dues, which is usually equal to one hour of pay. These dues go to the union leaders who are responsible for negotiating and organizing on behalf of the members.
You may have to attend meetings and participate in votes.
If the majority of members vote for a strike, you must strike whether you want to or not, even if you can’t afford to be without work for the duration of the strike. There is a limited amount of strike pay members receive, but that is a small fraction of your regular salary, and depends on how much funds your union has in its reserve.
In most cases, the benefits of joining an electrician union outweigh the disadvantages, because it gives workers a voice.
The primary objective of the union leaders is to secure good contracts for members, and to make sure the agreement is followed and enforced.
Many electrician unions offer free training programs for apprentices and journeymen, a complete benefit package and an excellent pension plan so you can retire in comfort. And if you are ever wronged or injured, someone is there to assist you.
Joining a union is just one path to becoming an electrician. It's encouraged to explore a few different options before committing to the long journey ahead.