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Big business has spent decades bad-mouthing unions. Meanwhile, 70% of the public admires unions and what they do for workers. 

By Lisa Wright

When it comes to protecting workers’ rights, unions are a top ally. Unfortunately, Big Business doesn’t want a strong workforce—it wants power and profits. And despite the fact that unions don’t weaken businesses or reduce profits, they’re still seen as a threat. Through the years, unions have been victim to violent attacks, spying, and intimidation, but among the most insidious punishment is Big Business’ efforts to turn the American public against them. 

Let’s debunk some of most common myths about unions.

Myth 1: Unions Bankrupt Businesses

This myth is so convenient for Big Business, right? "Sorry, but if you guys wanna go union, it’ll shut us down and then we’ll all be out of jobs.” It’s tough to respond to that threat, isn’t it? 

Fortunately, Princeton University studied this myth in great detail. The study followed more than 27,000 businesses with drives to organize for nearly two decades. The university concluded that, “There is virtually no causal impact of unionization on survival rates of business establishments.” So in simple terms, no, unions don’t make businesses close. 

Myth 2: Unions Only Care About Collecting Dues 

First of all, unions are nonprofit organizations. Dues are set to cover expenses, not to turn a profit. 

Every union spends differently, but some of the most common expenses include: 
— Health benefits for members 
— Legal representation 
— Contract negotiations 
— Educational services 
— Strike funds 
— Administration 

Dues are typically between 1 and 3% of a worker’s salary. And don’t forget, the average union worker’s salary is more than 11% higher than a non-union worker’s salary, so these dues protect those higher wages, which wouldn’t exist without union representation. 

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Members of Valor Security and Investigations are perp-walked after being charged with issuing sham safety licenses to thousands of non-union construction workers. In the past several years scores of non-union schemers have been led to prison. No construction union workers or leaders have been charged, much less convicted, of wrongdoing in that same period.

Myth 3: Unions Are Corrupt 

This is a fun one. First of all, which types of activities can we agree are corrupt? Wage theft? Unsafe working conditions? Fraud? Child labor? Intimidation of employees? Because these are activities that anti-union employers dole out on a daily basis. And what’s the worst thing corruption could possibly cause? Death, right? As we’ve previously reported, non-union construction sites are rife with safety issues that have resulted in many employee deaths. 

A great example of this is One Seaport, or the Leaning Tower of Pizzarotti. With work led by a non-union contractor, this project went off the rails, fast. Corners were cut, accidents were all over the place, and one poor worker lost his life. This type of thing doesn’t happen on union sites. Because unions have standards and follow safety rules. But yeah, sure, it’s unions that are corrupt. 

Myth 4: Unions Drive Up Costs 

Nope—in fact, the opposite is true. Unions ultimately decrease costs. A 2023 study by the Independent Project Analysis found that union labor reported a 4% decrease in costs over open shop labor. 

Look at it this way: If you have the choice to buy an expensive car with great safety ratings, is built with care and expertise, and will run over 200k miles—versus a cheap car with subpar safety, built with crappy parts, and will conk out after a few years, which is the smarter spend? The cheap car might seem like a frugal choice now, but over the years you’ll end up pouring more money into it rather than a safer car that will serve you well for years to come. 

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This chart by the labor research organization IPA shows that union construction crews are 4% more cost-efficient and cause 10% less unexpected growth in labor costs than non-union. This is true despite union workers getting paid more on average and receiving better benefits than non-union workers.

Myth 5: People Don’t Like Unions 

Big Business would love for you to believe that! They’ve certainly done everything they could to turn people against unions. But despite their best (and most vicious) efforts, our country is widely pro-union. According to Gallup, nearly 7 out of 10 Americans support unions—a near record high. Another poll by the AFL-CIO reveals that 75% of Americans support strikes for improved wages, benefits, and working conditions. We expect the numbers to keep climbing, as unions’ staunchest supporters are the youngest, with 88% of workers under 30 being pro-union. 

It's time we all push back on the anti-union bag of nonsense that big buisness has been pushing on us for years. 

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Myth 6: Unions Love to Strike 

I mean, after all, you don’t see C-suite folks refusing to work, do you? But then again, why would they need to? They rake in millions, fly in private jets, and revel in the power they have over their employees. 

If you want to know what unions really love, it’s fairness and equality. Seeing its membership thrive. Families with food on the table. Being paid a livable wage. Unions don’t strike because it’s fun. Unions fought for, and exercise, the right to strike as a way to protect its workers. The only reason they’ve had to exercise this right is because employers are more worried about cash flow than workers’ rights. 

Myth 7: Unions Only Look Out for Their Own 

The truth is, if you work for an employer—any employer—you’re automatically benefitting from union efforts. Don’t believe it? 

Thanks to unions you have: 
— Weekends. Union efforts led to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which reduced the average workweek from 61 hours down to 40, essentially creating the entire concept of a weekend. 

— Employer-based health insurance. Unions helped pass laws that mandated companies of a certain size to provide insurance. 

— The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Not only do unions fight for paid leave in their own contracts, but in 1993, they pushed for FMLA benefits for all eligible U.S. workers. 

Now that you know the facts about unions, hopefully you’ve got some good rebuttals the next time someone tries to turn you against them. And if you ever get stuck, just say this, “I’d love to argue about this, but I’m too busy getting ready for the weekend, which wouldn’t even exist without unions.” 


Lisa Wright is a journalist and the author of several books.

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