EDITORIAL: Importance of unionization lost on many

College students should educate themselves about labor rights prior to entering workforce

Workers' unions really are not a partisan issue, and there is no reason anybody — aside from the uber-rich — should be opposed to their existence, assuming the union in question is operating with integrity. 

Despite that fact, companies like Google continue to quash unionization through loopholes in both the law and their complex corporate structures. 

Google fired employees over Thanksgiving due to “data security violations,” but the laid-off employees claim it was truly due to their unionizing-based aspirations, according to NBC News. 

“Four engineers fired by Google just before Thanksgiving said they plan to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday, asking the federal agency to investigate the company for what they called a sweeping illegal campaign to quash worker organizing,” according to the article.

A union, simply put, is when employees — usually lower to middle-level workers at any given firm — group together to gain a certain amount of leverage over the higher level employees of their company. By unionizing, employees hold more power than they would over upper-management if they were operating as individual units.

This is due to many reasons. Unions act like teams or fraternities: If one employee is being treated poorly — whether that be being underpaid or mistreated — an ideal union will threaten upper-management with a plethora of retaliatory actions, with the most threatening of these actions being a workers strike. A strike is when employees refuse to work at all.

There is an argument to be made that employees for vital services — such as hospital workers, airport controllers and other critical aspects of society — should not be allowed to unionize for that reason: If an entire hospital strikes, there would be broader societal issues that extend past their greedy employers.

The Google incident is not one of those cases, though. Google allegedly using false pretenses to eliminate any breath of unionization is entirely problematic. By preventing its workers from “teaming up,” Google is putting them at risk for poor pay and working conditions. 

Comparative to the past, working conditions today are generally quite cushy. The average workweek was between 100 and 102 hours for building tradesman, according to PBS

The average workday nowadays is much shorter. Who do we have to thank for that? Workers' unions. They also earned us the standard five-day workweek, rather than the old standard six-day week. This goes to show the effectiveness of unions and how poor our working conditions might still be without their existence.

For those of us who were at Rutgers University during the Spring 2019 semester: We got to see the efficiency of unionizing firsthand. 

Equipped with the threat of a strike, the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) was able to secure improved pay and working conditions for its constituents, according to The Daily Targum.

“‘We made history today. For the first time in the union’s nearly 50-year history, we won equal pay for equal work for female faculty, faculty of color and for faculty in the Newark and Camden campuses. We won significant pay raises for our lowest paid members, our graduate employees who will see their pay increase from $25,969 to $30,162 over the course of the contract,’ said Deepa Kumar, president of AAUP-AFT and associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies,” according to The Targum.

This is not to say that people should blindly support the demands of every union to ever operate, but that they must at least support their right to exist. Google’s alleged corruption is another example of why that is so.

We should be proud that the current Rutgers administration is willing to let the unions that its teachers are members of operate, and they are constantly negotiating with them. In another sense, though, we should not have pride in this fact, as it should be the expectation for any respectable institution. 

Rutgers students — especially STEM majors, who may face poor working conditions upon graduation — have to learn their rights as an employee before entering the workforce and must stick up for their rights as a worker prior to getting eaten by a ruthless corporate machine. 


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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