By: Wayne Larsen
I am writing this testimonial from true life experience. The purpose is to enlighten you on making an important career decision based on facts, not employer tainted information.
I served four-years in the US Air Force directly after high school. Upon discharge I deliberated the career path I would use to eventually get married, raise a family and hopefully retire comfortably. I was trained by the military in aircraft sheet metal (structural repair). I enjoyed working with metal and thought about working with the airlines in maintenance. After inquiring about pay and benefits I found out the manufacturing or construction trades paid far better.
I contacted many area employers, union and non-union and left my “résumé.” After several months I received a call from Monarch Tool Co., a union machine manufacturing company. I was required to work 90 days as a janitor before I could bid to become a union machinist apprentice. I went right to work and things were going well. After two months at Monarch, I received a call from a local sheet metal company I had left my name with. They were hiring and needed a shop apprentice to fabricate. I met with them and they painted a pretty rosy picture of merit pay raises, benefits and future advancement. The pay was good start pay compared to the union program. I jumped on board and things went well for a few years, until the raises started coming fewer and far between. It got to a point where every time I went in to discuss a raise with the owner he would tell me I had reached my top pay grade even though my skills were growing. He would paint a negative market picture blaming the economy and even implying there were lots of people waiting to take my place. I started my family during this period and I realized that the medical benefits were poor. If he went out of business, I was out on the street and I had no plan that would support retirement.
The employees at this shop were always reminded by the owner that the steady employment provided by the non-union status ensured the best overall yearly income. This, of course, is a complete myth perpetuated by all non-union employers to stifle the chance of losing top employees to the union trades. I “took a chance,” which ended up not being a chance at all, and became an organized union sheet metal worker. I soon wished I had realized the correct path sooner, but better late than never.
I am now retired with thirty-years credit of union pension and live comfortably and secure.
Over thirty-years of earnings, I also have a large union annuity fund. Here are the basic facts as I have experienced both union and non-union life styles.
The union negotiates regular raises throughout your career – non-union, you are on your own – good luck! The union pay levels (with benefit package) are far above any achievable pay grades in the open shop environment. The union provides the highest level of medical insurance available – non-union can’t compete.
The non-union employers start pay grades are superior to the union apprentice rates at first, but that reverses in a few short years.
The training you will receive in a union program is top-notch and you will be competent in a broad base of skills at the end. The non-union shop trains you on-the-job only and usually teaches you only the portion of the trade they use you for.
Think about this; If unions were actually as undesirable as your employer represents, why are so many people successfully employed all over the nation in union backed jobs. Ask any one of them if they are unhappy!