Do Unions Make the Workplace Safer?

July 3, 2019

Recently, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) released its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of the top 12 U.S. employers that put workers at risk due to unsafe work practices. The reasons for each company’s inclusion on the list vary, however one thing they all have in common is their resistance to unionizing efforts. Given the notable absence of unionized workplaces on the list year after year, it begs the question – do unions make the workplace safer?

COSH Dirty Dozen

The COSH Dirty Dozen list for 2019 includes well-known companies such as Amazon, McDonald’s and Facebook, leading some to wonder how much of a role name recognition plays in the selection process. However, these companies all have a record of failing to provide safe and healthful workplaces in accordance with their general duty under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). Some of the reasons for being listed on the Dirty Dozen include:

  • Employer negligence/failure to act
  • Exposure to high temperatures
  • Inadequate mental health support
  • Sexual harassment
  • Shoring and trenching violations
  • Workplace violence

What are Unions?

A union is an organized group of workers who unite to bargain with employers for more favorable work conditions. When a negotiated agreement is reached, union representatives and company management enter into a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which also establishes the process for settling disputes. COSH estimates that there are more than 16 million U.S. workers represented by unions.

How Labor Unions Make the Workplace Safer

Workers in nearly every industry can join a union, including:

  • Construction workers
  • Engineers
  • Firefighters
  • Healthcare professionals
  • Hospitality industry workers
  • Mechanics
  • Miners
  • Office workers
  • Police officers
  • Public employees
  • Teachers
  • Utility workers
  • Warehouse workers

There are many benefits of union membership such as having a collective voice that represents workers’ best interests regarding pay, benefits, work hours, working conditions, and other important work-related issues.

According to a study published in the journal Safety and Health at Work, the occupational injury and illness rate for manufacturing industries with a labor union was lower than the rate for those without one (.87 percent, as compared to .45 percent). COSH also cites several advantages to being in a union, including:

  • Higher pay
  • Improved health and safety practices
  • Increased benefits
  • More stringent enforcement of labor standards
  • More transparency and accountability
  • Retirement security

Drawbacks to Unions

Although there are many benefits to labor unions, there are also some disadvantages. Opponents of unions most frequently point to the following drawbacks:

  • Lack of a personal voice/individuality
  • Lack of individual consideration based on merit (all workers are paid the same)
  • Steep union dues

Labor Unions and Workers’ Compensation

Union workers, like most workers in Pennsylvania, are covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, injured employees may be eligible for benefits to compensate for their work-related injuries. Union members who are injured at work may receive several types of workers’ compensation benefits including payment for medical expenses and lost wages.

Reading Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Proudly Represent Members of Labor Unions

If you were injured at work, contact Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. to discuss your legal options. Our experienced work injury attorneys proudly represent all types of workers, including union members, in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania. Contact us online or call 888-PITT-LAW to arrange a free consultation with a qualified Reading workers’ compensation lawyer.

We have several office locations to represent workers in Berks CountyBucks CountyChester CountyDelaware CountyMontgomery CountyPhiladelphia County, and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of AbingtonAmblerArdmoreBala CynwydBensalemClifton HeightsCrum LynneDarbyDowningtownDoylestownDrexel HillEssingtonFolcroftGlenoldenHaverfordHavertownHolmesKutztownLansdowneMediaMerion StationMortonNarberthNorristownNorwoodPhiladelphiaProspect ParkQuakertownReadingRoxboroughSharon HillUpper DarbyWest Chester, and Wynnewood.

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