HomeEconomy“Making a Choice that Matters: Nonunion Autoworkers Weigh Joining the UAW

“Making a Choice that Matters: Nonunion Autoworkers Weigh Joining the UAW

It is no secret that many nonunion workers in the auto industry have been eyeing the United Auto Workers (UAW) warily for many years. In recent years, the growing presence of these nonunion workers has created an interesting give and take between those wanting to remain nonunion, those ready to jump into the UAW camp and those still on the fence.

While there is no denying the fact that union workers enjoy substantial labor protections, there is equal clarity that being part of a union is not for everyone. On one hand, union workers receive higher wages and more job security than non-union counterparts, and they enjoy a degree of protection from layoffs and firings. On the other hand, the annual and local dues required to join a union can be prohibitively costly and membership requirements may be limiting or restrictive.

Nonunion auto workers who have long observed the UAW are now re-examining their choices due to recent changes in the union’s membership and contract demands. The UAW has recently negotiated generous contracts with automakers, wages rose up to 10-15% while seniority rights were enhanced. For workers facing stagnant wages and a shortage of job advancement opportunities, the terms of the UAW contract can be compelling enough to risk the high dues and commitment expected by the union.

Moreover, there are now opportunities for non-union members to join the UAW. The union now offers a Temporary Employee Unit, which allows nonunion workers to join the union for only select benefits, such as being able to participate in union pensions and benefits plans. In addition, some companies may be open to allowing hybrid models of union representation, where the union simply operates as a marketing or consulting firm, allowing employees to retain their nonunion status while benefiting from union expertise.

The final decision to join the UAW or remain nonunion ultimately rests with the individual autoworker. But the changing landscape of unionization provides more choices than ever for nonunion auto workers to consider. The UAW is now negotiating a different kind of auto industry contract, one that is much more attractive to both union and nonunion employees alike. So for those nonunion auto workers on the fence, it could be time to finally take the plunge and join the UAW and take advantage of the current contract terms and benefits.