Rock the Trade’s Comprehensive US Trade Union Directory (2022 Edition)

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Trade unions offer industrial workers a ton of benefits. But if joining one is on your radar, you’ll need to do some research to figure out which is right for you.

We’ve put together this article to help you figure it out. Keep reading to find our updated list of the best U.S. trade unions for 2022.

Unions for electricians

Joining a union can be a smart option for an electrician who wants to get more out of their career. If that’s you, then these are the top options for you to consider.

INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS (IBEW)

With more than 775,000 members, the IBEW is the largest national union for electricians. It’s full of electricians who work in a diverse array of fields, including:

  • Construction
  • Telecommunications
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail
  • Government
  • And more

If you do decide to join, you’ll pay monthly dues of around $57. In exchange for that, you will likely qualify for an excellent benefits package and could earn more than you would in non-union jobs.

You can visit the union’s website to learn more about what it takes to join.

SMALLER LOCAL UNIONS

The IBEW is the only real national-level union that electricians have at the moment. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s your only option.

Depending on where you live and work, there may be smaller, local unions in your area for electricians. These have more of a regional focus, which has its own set of pros and cons.

For example, you may have more of a say in determining the direction of the union since these aren’t as large as national unions. But you may not receive favorable contracts since a local union’s smaller size sometimes means less leverage over employers.

Top unions for auto mechanics, machinists, and machine operators

There aren’t really any national-scale unions that are specifically for auto mechanics. But these workers can join the IAM, which is a union for machinists, machine operators, and aerospace professionals. Here’s a look at why you might want to do that.

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS (IAM)

IAM is the largest union in the country for auto mechanics, machinists, and machine operators. It represents about 40,000 auto mechanics in North America and tens of thousands of machinists and machine operators.

The union’s website says that IAM technicians earn about 30% more pay than their non-union counterparts and are 54% more likely to have a pension. So if you’re looking to increase your paycheck and benefits, joining this union could be a good option.

Union options for HVAC technicians and contractors

Compared to the other professions on this list, there are quite a few union options for HVAC technicians and contractors. Here are the major ones:

The union that’s best for you will likely depend on the specific type of HVAC work that you do. For example, if you work primarily on air conditioners, then the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association could be your best bet.

But if you do electrical work alongside your HVAC tasks, then joining the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America could be a smarter option.

Reasons to join a union

Now that we’ve completed our list of the top U.S. trade unions for industrial workers in 2022, you may be wondering whether or not joining one of these is the best move for your career. 

We’ll cover the things that you should consider before making that decision in this section and the next.

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING POWER

Unions exist because, without them, employers have an outsized amount of power over their workers. In the past, employers can, and often did, use that power to subject their employees to harsh working conditions and poor wages.

By banding together in unions, workers level the playing field. They bargain for fairer employment terms alongside one another instead of trying to do so individually.

This collective bargaining power is what unions are all about. Employers have to respect the terms of the union or risk a massive strike, which usually costs them quite a bit of money in lost productivity.

HIGHER PAY

Higher pay is one of the major benefits of exercising collective bargaining power. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that union employees earn an average of $1,095 per week, while non-union workers make about $892.

That doesn’t guarantee that you’ll make more by joining a union. But it does show that your chances of earning a higher salary are better in a union than they would be outside of one.

BETTER BENEFITS

Unions also exercise their collective bargaining power to fight for better benefits packages. Union workers often enjoy excellent pensions, paid time off policies, and health insurance.

SUPERIOR WORKING CONDITIONS

Finally, union workers also tend to have better working conditions than non-union employees. This is an important thing to keep in mind if you’re working in the industrial sector, in which jobs often involve working with potentially dangerous tools and in harsh conditions.

Things to consider before joining a union

There are lots of great reasons to join a union if you’re an industrial worker. But there are also some potential drawbacks that are worth considering before you commit to one. Here are the biggest ones to think about.

UNION DUES

Research shows that the average union worker pays about $400 per year in dues. That translates to roughly two hours of pay per month for the average worker.

Millions of employees across the world believe that the cost is worth paying given all of the benefits that union workers receive.

And in fact, the data shows that joining a union is worth it if we consider the average outcomes. Remember, union employees earn about $203 per week more than non-union workers. But dues only cost an average of $33.33 per month.

LESS CONTROL OVER YOUR CAREER

Another potential downside of joining a union as an HVAC technician or another type of industrial worker is losing some control over your career.

Unions tend to have fairly strict rules in place for the type of work that you can do. 

For example, if an employer has refused to meet the union’s terms for employment in the past, you may not be able to work for them and remain a part of the union. This could be frustrating if that employer is willing to pay you more than you make at your union job.

Of course, this could end up not mattering to you at all. It will depend on your personal employment situation and the union that you decide to join.

SENIORITY

One last thing to keep in mind before joining a trade union is seniority. Generally, unions reward their longest members with the highest-paying positions and best benefits. 

This could hold you back from advancing in your career as quickly as you could if you weren’t part of a union. But, once again, your individual results may vary and seniority may not end up being a problem that you have to contend with.

Picking a union

Depending on your profession, you may have multiple options to choose from if you decide to join a union. If so, you may be struggling to figure out which is best for you.

The best way to make this decision is to do some research. Take the time to look into the specific offerings of each of your options so that you can make a more informed decision when the time comes to do so.

Here are some pieces of information to ask about as you’re completing this process:

  • Monthly union dues
  • Whether there is a one-time fee for joining and its amount
  • What type of restrictions you will have after joining the union
  • How your pay and benefits will improve after joining
  • How active the union is in your area

Find your next job with Rock the Trades

Regardless of whether you decide to join a union or not, when you’re ready to find your next job, Rock the Trades has you covered. We make it super easy to find the best job opportunities in your area.

All that you need to do to get started is download our app and tell us a little about yourself. We’ll use the information that you provide to match you with employers that are looking for candidates with your skills.

So why wait? Take the first step towards your next position by downloading the RTT app today.

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