According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, "More than one-fourth of welders belong to unions." There are a variety of benefits available to union members. Benefits depend on the union's collective bargaining agreements. Unions fight for increased wages, better healthcare, safer working conditions, and retirement benefits. Workers feel there is more job security when they are part of a union.
Laws guarantee certain workers' rights, but because most employment is "at-will" few individuals will assert themselves to get what they want. At-will employees can be let go for any reason at anytime (or even without reason). Unions usually require proof from the employer of wrongdoing, policy violations, or incompetence before disciplinary actions are taken.
Union members may receive many of the following benefits: protection against double jeopardy, representation in instance of employer investigation and employee appeal, due process through discipline and firing, protection against self-incrimination, and a third-party objective viewpoint. This viewpoint is helpful for setting standards for promotions and firing decisions. Unions may help to set a company's standards for expertise, merit, and productivity. Collective bargaining may result in welder benefits that include a right to privacy in one's personal life and exemption of search and seizure of personal articles at the workplace. A union acts as a mediator for workers to file grievances if the employer hasn't held up their end of the contract. In addition to worker benefits, unions have community benefits. Welders, rather than just seeking benefits for themselves, fight for the rights of their co-workers.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook also states, "Among these are the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers; the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America; the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada; and the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America." The type of unions that welders belong to depend on the industry and the company that the welder is employed.
Freelance welders may qualify for a freelancer's union. A union lends outside support and access to services and benefits not easily available to freelancers. A union may allow an individual welder to purchase health insurance at a group rate. Freelance unions fight for standardization of fair pay, benefits, safer working conditions, and many of the items traditional unions advocate for in your behalf. Unions may solicit freelance job information and members often refer each other. Networking opportunities, seminars, and workshops give you access to industry experts and your peers. If there is no freelance union available to you, a professional trade organization or chamber of commerce may offer similar benefits.
Union fees vary, but expect to shell out two hours worth of your paycheck each month. Fees go towards a paycheck in case of strike and daily expenses of the union. Con's of welders' unions would be the fact that not all unions are created equal. Many complain about the preferential treatment of those with workplace seniority. And of course, if the union strikes, there is a whole set of difficult circumstances and decisions. When wages need to be raised, the union may fight for wages above what the market can sustain. When the manufacturer has to raise costs of its products, this increase is passed through the distribution chain. The inevitable result will be inflation.