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September 12, 2006
Top 4 Reasons Employees Look to Unions

The top four factors that workers cite as important in deciding whether to have union representation are workplace safety, getting better benefits, obtaining higher wages, and increasing job security, according to a poll by the Employment Law Alliance, a network of employment and labor lawyers.

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Sixty-three percent of all respondents said workplace safety is an important factor in deciding whether to join a union. Seventy percent of current union members cited workplace safety as an important factor, compared with 65 percent of former union members and 61 percent of people who have never joined a union.

Sixty percent of all respondents cited getting better benefits as an important factor in deciding whether to have union representation, compared with 57 percent who said obtaining higher wages and 54 percent who said increasing job security.

The poll found that workers reported that factors related to poor management were less important. For example, 34 percent of workers cited poor communication and 33 percent cited inconsistent discipline as important factors in deciding whether to join a union.

"These results indicate to me that most companies have done an effective job dealing with employee relations issues such as workplace respect, effective communication, and consistent discipline," says attorney Stephen J. Hirschfeld, the alliance's chief executive. "Those factors used to be the primary drivers which caused employees to look to unions for help. Now, for the first time, employees are telling us that workplace safety, wages, benefits and job security are areas where they think unions will do a more effective job in helping their plight."

More than 40 percent of respondents said that they believed that unions have had a substantial impact on improving the working conditions of average American workers.

Thirty percent of respondents said unions really care about improving working conditions. On the other hand, 19 percent of respondents said unions are corrupt and only care about what is in the best interest of their own officials.

Seventeen percent of respondents said they were current members of a union, 22 percent said they were former union members, and 61 percent said they were never members of a union.

Last year, 12.5 percent of wage and salary workers were union members, down from a union membership rate of 20.1 percent in 1983, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Sources: Confined Space and the Employment Law Alliance

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