From a historical perspective, we have to be always thankful to unions, because it was the union of coal mine workers who set the precedence for us to have weekends off. For that, I take my hat off every Friday evening and I think all of us do as well.
From a curent perspective, I can give testimoonial of the way educational unions work and why half of them aren't worth my membership fee. This is why:
While the educational unions (those who protect teachers) claim to be almighty and save your job from any attack, the facts are:
1. If you break the organizational rules and regulations, no union can ever save your job.
2. If your claims are to benefit you, and not the people you signed up to work for, then there are major flaws in the union.
3. A union is supposed to support a worker whether he or she is a paying member or not.
4. Many people abuse the union to bully supervisors into doing what they want, or what they feel most comfortable doing.
5. Unions should get serious and not personal about the issues that occur. They should abide by the organizational rules and regulations (and avoid the temptation of making their own) and they should keep in mind the mission and vision at hand, and not their own personal popularity.
Each union would possess its own process for grievances and addressing membership concerns. At its most rudimentary level, the concerns of a union member would require a representative or union steward taking the issue to management or a type of sit down meeting with the employee, steward, and management would be needed. Most sincere unions take the issues of their workers to be critically vital and believe that representing these concerns are critical. Indeed, unions are highly effective, in my opinion. The most compelling piece of evidence for me would be the results of a world without unions. It is a scary proposition to simply be able to "trust" that management would not violate workers' rights in the name of profit or enhancing corporate values. A workplace without the rights of workers to form unions, to trust in their union leadership, and to develop collective solidarity in defending the rights of those who do not own the means of production is frightening. For these reasons, I would find unions to be highly effective. Perhaps, they might not get much done, but they could prevent many bad things from being done to workers, and in this, their value is affirmed.
Grievance procedures, of course, vary depending on the agreement that has been made between bargaining unit and employer. A typical arrangement has multiple steps where the union can appeal to higher and higher authority. Eventually, there is often a mediator that can make a decision.
Some major union issues in the news today:
- The Big 3 car companies trying to get concessions from their unions so the companies won't go broke.
- Teacher unions trying to block the idea of merit pay.
In my opinion, unions have gone too far and are losing effectiveness. They tend to make demands that hurt the overall businesses they work for, which tends to make the businesses seek to move to places without unions (Boeing just put a plant in S. Carolina rather than Washington because of such issues).