What are the disadvantages of joining a trade union?

Updated February 21, 2017

Individual workers often have little power to impact important aspects of their jobs such as pay, benefits and working conditions. Trade unions bargain with employers on behalf of their members. While joining a trade union can result in greater ability to affect changes in pay, benefits and other important workplace issues, union membership also has a few drawbacks.

Union subs

Union membership is not free. Unions require money to hire workers and perform the bargaining activities that their members demand. Unionised workers typically have to pay monthly membership fees called "subs" to maintain membership. Subs may be deducted from pay automatically, resulting in less take-home pay. Joining a union may also require a worker to pay an initial union membership fee.


Unionised workforces sometimes have systems of seniority in place where workers that have been employed longer than others enjoy greater pay, benefits or job security. Seniority can be an advantage to long-time workers, but it may be a disadvantage to newer workers and employers.

Strike action

Another potential drawback of joining a union is strikes. When trade unions are unable to achieve the aims of their members, the members may call for a strike. A strike is an intentional work stoppage aimed at stifling production and forcing employers to meet union demands. If you are a union worker, you could be forced to strike and lose income even if you do not agree with the decision to strike.

Membership benefits

Although there are some disadvantages with union membership, joining a trade union also offers many benefits. In addition to negotiating pay and benefits, trade unions also discuss major changes to the workplace with all members, accompany members to grievance and disciplinary meetings, and provide financial and legal advice. Some unions also offer consumer benefits, such as discounted insurance.

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About the Author

Gregory Hamel has been a writer since September 2008 and has also authored three novels. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from St. Olaf College. Hamel maintains a blog focused on massive open online courses and computer programming.