Career Coach, Professional Resume Writer, Freelance Writer
A union job can significantly impact your job security, pay, and employment benefits. Whether this is your first job or you have years of experience, a union job can offer much-needed protection in a labor market where employees are hired and fired at will.
If you haven’t had one before, you may be wondering how to get a union job. Trade unions don’t equally represent all industries, and some unions have minimum requirements for work experience and membership fees. While this sounds complicated, getting a union job is quite simple.
Here, we share what a union job is, the benefits of having one, and some tips for finding one.
What is a Union Job?
When most people think of a union job, they think of jobs that require uniforms and dress codes, but union jobs are much more than that. A union job is a part of a labor or a trade union that protects employees’ wages, work conditions, and rights. You can join a national or a local union. A local union specializes in your specific industry. They help you seek guidance on legal and administrative matters related to your employment.
A union can help your employment prospects and expand your professional network regardless of size. If you have a dispute with your employer, unions represent you and resolve the conflict in your favor.
Why Seek a Union Job? What are the Benefits?
Joining a union brings many benefits to workers. Participating employees use the union’s collective bargaining power to advocate against unfair treatment and to fight for better working conditions and pay.
Here are some of the benefits you can expect from getting a union job:
- Higher pay – the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that the median income of union workers vs. non-union workers was 17% higher;
- Job security – non-union members are employed at will, which means employers can fire employees at any point without a specific cause. Union members, however, are protected. Employers would need to demonstrate they have a justifiable reason before they can fire a union worker;
- Job protection – being a union member means that the union can advocate for you in cases where the employer may discriminate against you or take unfair disciplinary actions;
- Better benefits – BLS has found that union workers have significantly better access to benefits. Since unions have the power to negotiate with employers, union members usually have access to better benefits.
- Better work conditions – Unions fight for better working conditions. For instance, if you notice the employer is using outdated equipment or not observing the correct safety protocols, your union can step in to make the employer change their approach.
Industries Where Union Jobs are Common
Unionization is more common in some industries than others. For instance, BLS shares that the unionization rate in education, training, and library occupations was the highest (34.6%), while food preparation and serving-related jobs saw the lowest rate (3.1%).
That said, here are some of the industries where union jobs are most common:
- Government – this includes public servants, analysts, agents, or policy advisors;
- Public sector – these incorporate jobs related to public health and safety like police officers or firefighters;
- Construction – these are jobs directly related to the trade, such as construction worker, electrician or plumber, or supporting jobs like operations or project manager;
- Education – this includes teachers, school administrators, or academic advisors;
- Healthcare – this includes doctors, nurses, psychologists, or other hospital and medical staff;
How to Get a Union Job?
There are several ways you can go about getting a union job.
Apply for an Apprenticeship
From 2009-2020, apprenticeship programs across the U.S. grew by 73%. If you’re just starting or want to switch careers, start by searching for an apprenticeship program. You can also go directly to the United States Department of Labor’s website to browse available opportunities. These programs will connect you with unions in your industry and advise you on the best way to join one.
Query Job Boards for Union Affiliation
If you want to join a specific union or industry, add the union name in your job search. For example, if you’re interested in the “American Federation of Government Employees,” you can browse Job\Searcher for this name and see what jobs come up.
Contact Unions Directly
There are hundreds of trade unions worldwide, and you can search for unions based on industry. Once you find some that match your interests, contact them directly. They offer guidance and insights on employers who may be hiring.
Visit Union Jobs Clearinghouse
This website posts jobs in unions and socially allied organizations. So, it’s a great place to check if there’s anything that matches your skills and experience. Here, you can browse opportunities by geographic location or union association.
Tips for Getting a Union Job
Union jobs are competitive. The good news is that there are several routes you can explore to increase your odds. Outside of the points discussed above, you can also try these things to expand your pool of opportunities:
Search for Union-Affiliated Employers
Many companies advertise their union affiliation to attract talent. So, if you already have a few employers in mind, check out their website for any union-related information. Also, don’t be afraid to ask those around you for guidance. For instance, you can speak to your children’s teacher, your electrician, or family and friends about getting a union job in their line of work.
Check Current Employer for Union Jobs
If you’re already employed, ask your HR department if the company is part of an existing trade union. HR can guide you on the best way to contact them. You may need to fill out an application and pay a membership fee before joining, so be prepared for that.
Contact Local & Industry-Specific Trade Unions
If you want to work as a freelancer or a contractor, you may want to join a local trade union for some guidance and protection. You can search unions by state, city, or industry. Once you find a few, go through their requirements and contact a representative. Aim to learn more about the benefits and activities they organize for members.
It’s never too late to get a union job. Regardless of whether you’re looking for better pay, more perks, or simply better protection of your rights, a union can give you a voice to speak out about your rights.
That said, there are thousands of trade unions out there. Some of them charge fees and others have very specific joining requirements. Make sure to do your research and utilize your network. Once you’ve made your selection, tidy up your resumes, cover letters, and applications for the best chance at landing your first union job.