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I recently read about a union effort in Amazon and a photo of an Amazon flyer was mentioning that accepting a union at Amazon means paying for it:

enter image description here

(source)

I am French and do not know how unions work in the US, so apologies if the question is obvious: are all employees of a company automatically paying for a union once there is one in the company?

By "paying", I mean "having an entry on the payslip with "union fees"".

I can imagine that there are some indirect payments possible (the company must co-pay for the union, and this may ultimately mean that the salaries are lower (this is an extreme example)), or that some employees want to join the union (and pay their fees).

The flyer seems to suggest however that once a union is formed, everyone must pay for it. Is that correct?

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  • I wonder how much money was paid to print and distribute those flyers.
    – IDDQD
    Feb 25 '21 at 15:46
  • @IDDQD - almost nothing. At scales of 100,000 flyers, it's less than a cent to literally print flyers. Note that the budget for - say - chairs at Amazon would be on the order of $100 /employee annually.
    – Fattie
    Feb 25 '21 at 17:06
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    The flyer appears to be part of a campaign to prevent the unionization effort, by persuading employees to vote against it so they can save the money on the dues (vs spending it on health insurance etc which a union could possibly to negotiate). This type of PR battle is a standard procedure in the US.
    – Pete W
    Feb 25 '21 at 20:42
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Employees pay something called "union dues" in the United States

Unions are not free to run. They hire benefit administrators. They sometimes manage pensions. They definitely need to hire negotiators. They pay for this by charging their members a fee.

are all employees of a company automatically paying for a union once there is one in the company?

All employees in the bargaining unit, which is nearly always smaller than the number of employees in the company and in this case much smaller. Bargaining units might form around a location, a particular skillset, or even job function.

By "paying", I mean "having an entry on the payslip with "union fees"".

Quite often. The unions often prefer to deduct dues directly from paycheques.

The flyer seems to suggest however that once a union is formed, everyone must pay for it. Is that correct?

Depends on the particular laws of the state. In some states, if a majority vote for a union, everyone must pay. In "right-to-work" states, official membership in the union is optional and so is paying union dues. So the union would still exist, it is just that a large number of people could opt-out of being members.

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    Your summary of how unions function in "right-to-work" states is a little misleading. Even in right-to-work states, employers can (depending on state law) enter into agreements with unions that make getting and keeping a job contingent on the worker making agency fee payments to the union even if workers are not required to be part of the union. justia.com/employment/unions/right-to-work-and-union-dues
    – ColleenV
    Feb 25 '21 at 18:42
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    Unions are not free to run. (...) They pay for this by charging their members a fee. Thanks for that information. It is yet another example of differences between US and EU. Over here unions will be subsidized by the state, region, company where they are present, and finally the fees of members. But once they are in a company, they negotiate for all the employees, affiliated or not.
    – WoJ
    Feb 25 '21 at 18:46
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    In other words... now Both Amazon AND the Union Administrators get rich off the labor of underpaid Amazon employees. Seems way better to me!
    – SnakeDoc
    Feb 26 '21 at 0:38
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    In "right-to-work" states, official membership in the union is optional and so is paying union dues. So the union would still exist, it is just that a large number of people could opt-out of being members. This often works out to being mandatory or you're not hired or get fired. The unions for many grocery stores are cutthroat...
    – SnakeDoc
    Feb 26 '21 at 0:41
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    @SnakeDoc Please define: "get rich".
    – Dai
    Feb 26 '21 at 1:52
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The flyer seems to suggest however that once a union is formed, everyone must pay for it. Is that correct?

Yes. They're called union dues. Quoting wikipedia (emphasis mine):

Union dues are a regular payment of money made by members of unions. Dues are the cost of membership; they are used to fund the various activities which the union engages in. Nearly all unions require their members to pay dues.

Unions typically benefit the employee much more so than the employer so it's unlikely the employer would voluntarily pay for it out of their own pocket.

Unions claim that members often have higher salaries to justify those dues. Like sure, you may be $500 / year to the union but, in theory, your salary might be, say, 30% more, because of your membership in the union, so if that 30% is $30,000 then $500 in union dues is a pittance compared to that. At least so the theory goes.

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    Unions claim that members often have higher salaries to justify those dues Does that mean that a union works only for its members? In other words - whatever they negotiate benefits only their members, not all employees?
    – WoJ
    Feb 25 '21 at 15:36
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    @WoJ It varies... but setting the law such that union negotiation benefits all workers but not all must pay is a classic first move by union-busters in taking down the union altogether. Once the union is no longer permitted to negotiate only for its own members, it's generally pretty much doomed.
    – Ben Barden
    Feb 25 '21 at 15:40
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    @FooTheBar Often, union shops do not permit non-union workers at all.
    – Ben Barden
    Feb 25 '21 at 15:41
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    @BenBarden: I see that unions in the US are vastly different from the ones we have in France (and broadly - in the EU). In France, a union negotiates for all the employees, whether they are members or not. You can be a member and it helps if you want to be represented directly (you can go to HR with a union delegate for instance), but even in that case, it is not compulsory. The union has zero impact on hiring and there are usually several unions in one company - so you never know (even within a union) if someone is unionized or not (except for the delegates of course)
    – WoJ
    Feb 25 '21 at 15:59
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    @BenBarden it can get very complex. Some shops have multiple unions, some have mandatory membership, others have union and non-union employment where no fees are collected from non-union, others have contracts where a non-union member must still pay for collective bargaining. So, yeah, it gets complicated. Feb 25 '21 at 16:08

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