So, I've looked online and all I can find are the positives of joining a union and some satirical articles on why you shouldn't join.

Are there any negatives, and if not, why doesn't everyone join?

  • 1
    You need to be more specific. Is this a union at a company or is it a trade-union such as an electrician? If it's more of the latter, then most of the answers below won't apply because it's a completely different relationship with your union.
    – Chris E
    Feb 15, 2017 at 15:22
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    The positives are coming from the unions - they have lobbies. A company is not going to lobby against a union as it would make them look bad. The main negative is dues.
    – paparazzo
    Feb 15, 2017 at 15:29
  • Hi Jo. I did the search but if you look it seems very biased towards the positives. Some even write off the negative in the next point mentioned.
    – Terry
    Feb 15, 2017 at 19:37
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    There are too many equally valid answers for this to be a good question.
    – Myles
    Feb 15, 2017 at 22:39
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    Why I wouldn't join a union is severe limitation on autonomy in the workplace. If you find something that needs to be done, you would find interesting, and management greenlights the work there is a strong possibility of the union preventing you from doing it if it doesn't exactly fit your job description.
    – Myles
    Feb 15, 2017 at 22:42

3 Answers 3


I've been in several unions.

I am in the USA, so these points may or may not apply to a greater or lesser extent in the UK.

Here's what I did not like.

The union cares about the union, not you.

Many make the mistake of thinking that the union protects it's members, it does not. The union protects itself. Case in point. One union shop I worked at stood their ground on reduction of benefits and salary. The fact that many of us would have gladly taken cuts and stayed employed was irrelevant. End result, layoffs.

You all get paid the same.

Do a good job, and you get paid the same as the guy who is goofing off, maybe even less. A rise in pay in a union shop is by seniority, not by merit. While there is collective bargaining, there is also collective results.

Achievement is discouraged, ambition is not rewarded

When I worked in a union, I was ambitious and worked hard and was rewarded with hearing "You're making us look bad". In a union shop, if you perform too far above your coworkers, you WILL be singled out, and not in a good way

Collective bargaining can bite you

If the union calls a strike, you're out of work for the duration and you NEVER make that money back. Decades ago, unions used to keep "Strike funds" to pay the lost wages to the striking employees. That is no longer the case.

Another layer of bureaucracy

While every environment has "office politics", a union adds another layer to the mix. Not only do you need to navigate the politics of the company, but the politics of the union as well. Annoy the shop steward or any key union members, and you're going to be miserable, and the union will make sure of it.

Disobey the union, and you're going to pay

I've seen this first hand. get the label of "Rat" or worse, and the rest of your time is going to be miserable. Expect vandalism, being frozen out, posters on your locker. Your locks glued shut. Not fun.


You don't join a union for free and union dues run into the thousands per year, depending on the shop. You also have no say in where these dues go. If the union wants to throw your money into causes you disagree with, too bad for you.

  • 3
    I also did not enjoy my time in a union. It seemed all they did was collect my dues, and never really did anything for me. I was particularly galled at the wasteful ways they spent my money. When I left the union, I had to pay a $1 fee to suspend my membership, allowing me the option to re-join as though I had never left. When I sent them my dollar, I got a letter saying they received it, another letter saying I would receive a confirmation soon, and final letter with the actual confirmation, meaning they had spent over $1 in postage alone to collect my $1. Feb 15, 2017 at 14:08
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    Unions are a pyramid scheme the guys at the top get the money while the guys at the bottom do the work. Only time the leaders get involved is when their bottom line is affected.
    – Snowlockk
    Feb 15, 2017 at 14:10
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    Great answer. I've been on both sides as union and management. The only time I would join a union is if the management regularly disciplines or applies its policies unfairly. Being in a union generally prevents you from being singled out by management. Other than that, Richard's right.
    – Chris E
    Feb 15, 2017 at 15:20
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    This seems to be based on the USA and not the UK Feb 15, 2017 at 21:56
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    Union shops are illegal in the UK, so you find that most places covered by a union are mixed, and the union is often in a minority.
    – user34687
    Feb 16, 2017 at 18:34

Off the top of my head:

  1. The cost of joining the union. The sub cost varies but it is money you could have in your pocket.
  2. You're bound by the majority decision i.e. even if you vote against union decisions on things like work to rule or strike action you're meant to support it. This could lead to you losing pay based on decisions you don't agree with.

There are various other arguments you'll read for and against joining a union and a lot of anecdote but these are two concrete things to consider.

  • 1
    Don't forget the reputation of whichever union you join, because it will become part of your reputation too. Some are pretty inconspicuous. And some are the RMT.
    – Kaz
    Feb 15, 2017 at 13:59
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    @Kaz the CWA is often referred to as "Criminals With Authority". and that's by their own members (I was a member once) Feb 15, 2017 at 15:51

Here are some reasons, on top on my mind, on why you might not want to join one. This list is not exhaustive at all.

  1. Do you have the time to join a union and actively participate ? A lot of people who already have their jobs (including travel time) and families do not have enough time to invest themselves in a collective action.

  2. Some unions will ask you for a subscription / donation. You might not be willing to pay this fee.

  3. You will be flagged as "a unionist". This means that you will have to go against the management in a lot of cases, and some people will have a bad opinion of view (I am not discussing whether this is right or not, but a lot of people do not like unionists, because they see them as lazy / anti-productive).

  4. As in any organization, when you joined, you will not be assigned the most interesting tasks, which might not encourage you unless you do have a strong interest in unions.

  • The unions don't "ask", they take the dues... or else. Feb 15, 2017 at 14:07
  • It does feel like protection money.
    – Terry
    Feb 15, 2017 at 14:27

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