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Up Topic Welding Industry / General Welding Discussion / Union vs Non-Union
- - By Tnwelder (**) Date 02-19-2008 23:52 Edited 02-19-2008 23:54
Ok guys i want your opinion.  What is better Union work or Non-union.  Be honest with me.  The reason I ask, is to get you alls perspective on the unions.  If you like unions tell me which union you think is the best. I am looking at joining the UA. My uncle put 40 years in with the local 538 and he loved it. The only reason i was thinking of joining is because Iheard that they train you good and you always have a job. Please tell me what you think, good or bad. 
Parent - - By chrisodom980 (*) Date 02-20-2008 00:53
Well it depends on what your looking for if u want benifits well union is the way to go and plus u can still make a little money. The base pay in the local im in ( UA Pipefitters and Plumbers) 22.00 an hour on the check. It has Its up and downs about it. I have been in it for about 2 months now and so far so good, still welding the hell out of pipe.
Parent - By Tnwelder (**) Date 02-20-2008 01:04 Edited 02-20-2008 01:07

Hey thanks for the post man. What local are you in. If i joined i would be in the same union the Pipefitters and plumbers.  Are they training you pretty well.
Parent - - By aevald (*****) Date 02-20-2008 03:58
Hello Tnwelder, there are really as many reasons for going union as non-union and visa-versa. This is a dynamic question that really changes all of the time and depends on any number of variables. Now, this is the reason that I see it that way. At one point and probably still that way in some areas or situations there was, has been, and still is, the good-ole-boy system for qualifying to become a union member. In these instances you have to or had to be a family member or a relation of some sort in order to be considered for employment. So for some this meant that they had to go the non-union route in order to work at all if they had an interest in a particular aspect of the welding trade. I certainly don't believe this is the predominant line of thinking for the majority of union situations anymore.
     Union apprenticeships certainly offer many very positive and rewarding components: while you are training you are getting paid, whether you work for contractor A or B you continue to acrue retirement, medical coverage, and other benefits that you would not likely have in a non-union situation unless you go with a cobra plan which you will pay for out of your pocket or a retirement plan which again, you will have to pay for fully without any employer contribution. Various levels of apprenticeship and a journeyman level typically indicate a level of skill that can be readily measured and expected. In most instances, but not all, union jobs are typically at the top of the pay scale for work in most areas. There are some instances where this is not the case, but this is the exception, not the rule. You have probably seen posts from some individuals where they have listed wage differences for field pay versus shop pay and noticed some fairly large discrepancies or inequality. Geographical areas, employer negotiated exceptions, and many other variables can affect these wage levels. In the town that I live there is a boilermaker shop that has pay scales that are exceeded by just about every other shop in town, whether they be union or non-union, this is one of those cases where the bargaining parties reached an agreement that most would not have agreed to. In this particular case, it appears as though they had a choice, either agree to concessions or go without a job and they chose the job. Right or wrong, these can be the realities of life sometime.
     Some folks like the concept of non-union work because they feel that they can be rewarded for their individual contribution more readily than if they were working for a union. This is the example that I would give: if you have two union workers of an equal empoyment status, say journeyman, whether they both are equally as good and skilled or not they will be compensated equally while working in the same shop or out of the same hall or local. In the same situation but with non-union workers the possibility exists that the more skilled individual might be compensated better or offered more perks and benefits as a result of his or her performance. So for some folks this has more appeal to them. Geographical areas or localities can have a great influence on whether you have a choice to go union or non-union. If an individual chooses to stay in a certain area there might only be so many opportunities for union or non-union work, so depending on the situation at any given time, the same person might only have the choice to work union or non-union based upon job availability at that time. One more variable might enter into the picture. If an individual has worked for quite some time in a non-union capacity and then decides that they would like to pursue union work, depending on how the union views their work history they may or not, qualify for a status which will allow them to receive a pay that meets or exceeds the current wage that they may be earning. For some, this pay-cut requirement might not allow them to make the job change as they may have bills and other responsibilities prohibiting this. I try to remain fairly neutral on this issue, as in my instructor position, I hope students take into account all of the possibilities that are out there and find something that will fit for them individually and their particular situation. So once again I am not necessarily promoting one route or the other, just hoping to give some insight on the differences, similarities, and benefits of either choice. Best regards, aevald
Parent - - By Tnwelder (**) Date 02-20-2008 16:49

Thanks for the huge post and it really helps me witch to decide.Thanks for taking the time to help me.
Parent - By aevald (*****) Date 02-20-2008 20:30
Tnwelder, all of the folks who have replied to your question have given you different perspectives in regards to your question. I believe darren hit it pretty well when he made the statement that the choice is sort of like finding the right pair of boots, they really have to be the ones that fit you. Best regards, aevald
Parent - - By JescoPressure (**) Date 02-20-2008 04:30
ive work both , Union work  builds a pension, offers lots of training , and one of the best by hand rates, but...
if you are  hungry to make alot of money, rig up a truck . Non union is not as restricted to a set of guidelines that can hinder your abilities to make alot of money
( max work hours , etc. )

saying that i have made $16000 a month takehome with the union on maint shutdowns
but i've made $11000 a week with my truck

both have their ups and downs but if you want to join a hall the UA is a great choice , believe me i've worked through  , ironworkers, boilermakers , and the fitters and i enjoyed the fitters  way more  ( no changing bubble caps or straightening trays in towers, or welding some rusty pipe rack.  But thats just my oppinion

Hope that helps you
Parent - By DaveBoyer (*****) Date 02-20-2008 04:51
Are there any RECOGNISED apprenticeships in welding offered by non union shops? The reason I ask this is that when I served My tool & die apprenticeship it was in a program registered with the State of Pensylvania, and when I finally got My papers there endorsment was on them. My employer was not union, but they were members in the "Tool, Die & precision Machining Association" or something like that, an industry group who was responsible for the apprenticeship schooling. It is pretty unlikely that a prospective employer would not recognise My papers as valid. There were other shops that offered "apprenticeships" but they were not state registered, or affiliated with the above association, and some employers would not accept them [if they were not from a company they knew of], hiring the people who held them at lower than journyman rates.
Parent - - By Superflux (****) Date 02-20-2008 04:55
Being a non-union worker, you have more flexibility (if your working construction) to drag up if conditions aren't to your liking. For instance, you can't get along with the foreman, or the job is not in a preferable location. In the union, gotta go where the BA sends you, especially during the apprentice period. To make a plug for the union though, you can always come on to our "rat" or "scab" jobs as they like to refer to us (kind of been an issue with me because....) a non union worker cannot as readily go on to a union project. The Hall has to be really hard up with no one on the bench to accept permit hands off the street.
My advice would be to go the union route, and you can have the best of both worlds. It is hard to recieve or beat that quality of training in the non union venue.
Parent - - By Superflux (****) Date 02-20-2008 05:06
Oh yeah,
by the way, Pipe fitters do tend to get cleaner work and are the "Elite" of the construction trades....
If you don't think that pipe welders aren't the elitest of the trades.... Ok, here's the scenario..... Every other tradesmen are always telling a welder "I can Weld!", and how good they are at welding. You will never hear a pipe welder tell an Iron Worker connector..." I'm really good at stabbin a spud wrench in a hole" or say to a laborer "I can dig a ditch good enough to do your job!!!!!!!!!!"
Parent - By irnwlkr Date 02-20-2008 14:10
I guess that is where the term "Golden Arm" comes from, never been one to care about all the brewha about who is the best or who has the toughest job but i will say it takes a hell of alot of talent, skill,fortitude and just plain old cahones to "stick a spud In a hole and put a bolt in it",setting on a four inch beam one hundred and twenty feet off the ground,just as i know that welding is a very tough and demanding job. Ironworker connectors do both,and yes I know that there are good and bad Ironworker welders,just as there are good and bad in any trade. Union Ironworkers are trained in every aspect of steel erection from spudding a hole to blueprint reading,ornamental,rebar,rigging,and on and on and on,so if it were as simple as you put it I would not be as proud to be a Union Journeyman Ironworker. 
Parent - By awspartb (***) Date 02-25-2008 00:47
Boilermakers are the Elite of the Welding trades.  By far.  Tube welders NEVER have an easy weld.  Fitters do.  Most of our work is in confined , tight places and not wide open spaces like fitters get. 

Our hall had a call out for Fitters to come and work with the Boilermakers a few years back.  6G , 2-5/8" heavy wall with GTAW root and 7018 fill/cap.  Only a couple of them passed.  I'm sure they could burn E6010 all day long.  Each trade has it's aces and fitters are 5P rod burners for sure. 

Fitter are great guys but there is a fierce rivalry between the Boilermakers and Fitters when it comes to welding. Boilermakers are THE premier welding trade in the USA.

Go union.

Plus side?  Representation if you get hurt, injured or screwed. Safety and health issues are far better in a union environment. Job referals nationwide from numerous locals.  Pension, health insurance even when you are laid off for a several months. 

Down side?  Nepotism. Confiscatory union dues (but you'll still make more money than working non-union in most cases) and the rest you can read about on a google search of the particular trade union you are researching. Some of the things you find may be distasteful.  Polictical contributions are one that I hear often and the occasional embezzlement scandal, etc. Do your homework.

I'll take union over non-union desptite the negatives.   The positives far outway the negatives.  Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and bare it. 
Parent - - By JescoPressure (**) Date 02-20-2008 06:54
thats not completely true > If you are a member of the unionhall and there are jobs on the board you can up and quit one job and put your name on the out of work board and pull a slip for anouther job the next day, it depends how busy the jurisdiction the hall has. Also they dont ussually pick the job for you , you pick the job off of the board.
Parent - By Superflux (****) Date 02-20-2008 07:27
Jesco, thanks for the correction. I've just had a few friends in the union that I suppose excelled at burning bridges. I've been in a few unions over the years, mostly representing us at a shop. But when I was in the Laborers and Iron workers union back in the stone age, they told me where to go. I guess things are different nowdays. Like I said earlier tho, I can't think of any non-union opportunities that can provide the education that appreticeship will give. As I see it, with a journeyman's book, you can have the best of both worlds.
Parent - By darren (***) Date 02-20-2008 11:53
thats  like asking what kinda boots fits best. every man is different every situation is different. the best thing you can do is just like the boots, keep trying on different ones until you find a pair that fits you, keep trying out different situations until you find one that is comfortable to you.
the most important thing is that you take that first step and start welding as much as you can and try hard, your efforts and talent will not go unrewarded whatever path you take.
good luck in your career, stay safe
Parent - - By Ringo (***) Date 02-20-2008 12:00
I have mostly worked non-union as a pipewelder,and made decent money.I think union's are a necessity,in that they keep the wages up for everybody else,you have more rights (working conditions,senority,etc.),plus they usually offer very good apprenticeships.

Like some of the other guys said,you have more flexablity with non union.just go burn down man and make some green.
Parent - - By Kix (****) Date 02-20-2008 15:01
Different Locals have different base pay.  $22.00 on the check is pretty low for most of the U.A. pipefitters, like said above thats on the check and does not include all of the benefits that are being paid on top of the 22 bucks an hour.  A lot of the U.A fitters are getting 30+ an hour in Illinois,out east and out in the northwest.  If you have a chance to get into a U.A. pipefitters local, go for it!!
Parent - By JescoPressure (**) Date 02-20-2008 22:57
ua pipefitters in edmonton alberta canada are @ around 39 bucks and hour , subsistence for the fort mac area is 165 a day plus 20 a day meal and 20 travel subsidy makes for some good money by hand when you get on a 7-12 shift , with your double time weekends you are making $78 an hour. The collective was reached in the fall and keeps pay 2% above inflation
Parent - - By OBEWAN (***) Date 02-20-2008 15:55 Edited 11-09-2013 04:04
I say exploit the free enterprise system to maximize your own benefit.  Work for the highest bidder.  Just because you join a union that does not mean you can not look for a non-union job.  Heck, when I was laid off, I found a job at a grocery store.  I had to pay union dues.  I had no benefits, no holidays, no sick time, and they offered $6.10 an hour - in 2001.  (I said:  "Why do I pay dues?"  They said: "So you can have the job."
Parent - By boilermaker (**) Date 02-23-2008 16:35
The whole concept of UNION is to organize the NON-UNION shops and workers.  So if you're a union member, if the international that you belong to finds out, they can pull your book and make life very hard on you.  If you're a GOOD welder, you can get on with PCI, WSI, WTS, or Weld Tech Services and go anywhere in the world and make tons of money.
If you want skills and continuing education that you don't have to worry about getting a knife in the back with someone wanting your job because they kiss the bosses butt more, go union.  If you want everyone underbidding you and losing what you have now, go non-union.
Proud UNION Boilermaker
Parent - - By johnnyh (***) Date 02-20-2008 21:03
How old are you?  What is your experience level?  If you are just starting out I believe the best thing to do would be to try to join the union.  This would get your foot in the door in the crafts.  Most non union contractors will require a test so if you cant pass they will put you on a shovel and you will have to pay for your own education.  With the union apprenticeship you will be learning as you go.  After a year or two you may want to cross over and take a test for more money....or you might want to stick with the apprenticeship and become a bonafide journeyman.  Either way, the key is to try to learn as much as you can.  The route you take now will impact you throughout your career in the trades. 
Parent - - By Tnwelder (**) Date 02-20-2008 23:26

I am in my first year of college. I am 20 years old and my experience level is average for a welder.  I am going for a degree in welding and metal fabrication.  I have one more year left. I am learning alot amd am going to finish out my degree. I was told this would get me more money in my life time and I am getting it payed for so I thought I would go and get this degree.  It will also help me with my apprenticeship, it will take a few years off.  Thanks for the help man.
Parent - - By aevald (*****) Date 02-21-2008 00:27
Tnwelder, it is wise, in most cases, to finish out school if you can afford to do so and especially if someone else is footing the bill. The likelihood of many to return to school later in life diminishes greatly, so as you said, do it now. The completion of a degree "can" help to trim time off of an established apprenticeship. How much time is entirely up to the particular union that you have applied to and also in many cases will be determined by the value that they place on the education that you have received from a particular school, it may also be determined by aptitude and skills testing that the union can require of you as part of the application process. Don't automatically assume that your schooling right now will entitle you to specific allotments of time with the unions, they make the call. Certainly check into these things if you have a particular craft in mind and see about getting a good idea of how you will rate with them based on your current choice of school. At your age you are well on your way to making a very successful start in a trade that can treat you very well over your lifetime, best of luck to you and don't stop asking questions and trying to learn more. Regards, aevald
Parent - - By pypLynr (***) Date 02-21-2008 03:15
Tnwelder, I am in the plumbers&pipefitters union as a permit hand. I came from the non union side of the trade as a welder. My personal experience with 'open shop' work was that everybody was worried about you taking their job. So you couldn't get anybody to teach you anything you didn't already know. I had to lie and say I had a little exp. to get any where. The union is not like that at all. You do need to have some knowledge to come in as a permit hand but if not, they have an apprentice program. They will train you to be a professional at your job. My personal choice is UNION because I'm a part of a brotherhood with strong work ethic an values that I too posess. When I used to have to get a job in open shop ,it was nerve wracking to interview and negociate money and hours and benys. The union does ALL this for you for a small due each month that is split up into several different areas. The 'hall' works for YOU! All you got to do is-work hard and do right by your brothers. There is some truth in the saying-'those who orginized labor- brought you the weekend'. 'united we bargain-divided we beg'  is another good one. Open shop is too cut throat for me anymore. No loyalty that I could see.
Parent - - By chris2698 (****) Date 02-21-2008 04:28
pyplynr I agree with you. I work in a shop now and well there are about 4 guys who aren't scared of me. I learn a ton from these two guys ones a fitter the other is both welder and fitter and coming into this job I was fresh outta school been there for about 8 months now and in under 3 months blew everyone away and now that I'm at about 8 months I can feel that most the guys there hate me. They hate me because there scared I'm going to take there job and in a way it's a cool feeling. I've shocked the h*ll outta of alot of my bosses of how fast I have learned but in another way I'm really pretty easy going and just want to get along with my co-workers so yeah it's kinda a werid feeling I seem to really only talk to alot of the old timers because everyone is scared of me. I thought about joining the local union but a guy I talked to said it was becoming more a plumbers union and he was like yeah when he was working he made dam good money but seemd like alot of the time he was sitting around waiting for the next job to come around. This guy kinda told me if I really want to to do something else to try and find a local contractor to get with and that I could stay more busy but hey thats just where I am, Hopfully it is much better where you're at. I'm still gonna check with the local 60 union near me from time to time and see if it picks up any. From what I understand when you join you are put on a waiting list and when this job comes up and you're name comes up on the list then you get it but if you're way at the bottom it maybe a while before you get it but I'm not to sure on this. Goodluck with whatever you do
Parent - By 4theluvofgold (*) Date 02-21-2008 12:54 Edited 02-21-2008 13:03
Unions are necessary and Non union is necessary.  Both balance each other,  If there were all unions, there would be nothing special to them,  if there wasn't non union work then the benefits of the unions wouldn't be seen.
IT DEPENDS ON THE UNION,   I haven't been in a union for about 4 years,  but right now I'm trying.

I was in UWPPW, wood pulp and paper workers,  Before I got into welding.   They supported a politician,  Die hard all the way, that was against logging,  mining, and doing anything that changes the look to the eye. 
He was elected, and the logging got banned in even more areas then were already banned, and well I got Laid off,  I waited, waited, nothing came back.    The electricians serving the plant there were moved on to other jobs easily,  but their ideology in politics are wary sometimes.

I find it funny when unions like Ironworkers, Pipefitters, Fabricators, fitters etc. support the ones who don't like mining.  How are we suppose to get our metal? Fluxes?    Just confuses me.  One union guy in the UBEW said his job wouldn't be at risk because of mining as much as iron workers would.  I had to be silent because he must not be stripping any wires lately.
Guess its the not in my back yard thing.  Its ok to mine in Africa, South America, but not around here.

Like the post above,  being a  Grocer working there for minimum wage,  paying dues, just to get the job.  I did that in high school.  Had no moving up.   Cashiers would go up in wages get more,  But not the clerks unless in management.   1000, 3000, 10,000 hours it didn't matter, still Minimum.  United Grocers stunk.  The hall then wouldn't work for us getting a journey status.  our goal wasn't to get rich but give the tenured a better class, like unions do,  but they found a way to can me in the middle of my senior year for bogus stuff, and the union rep sat there silent playing with the latches on his briefcase.

That's about my only little fit.  They tend to support people who don't truly support them all because of a title under their name.

The wages are good, the benefits are good and training is good.  Theres no doubt to that.  That alone beats the negatives, as long as its a common sense good strong union.  Make sure of that.   Most in these trades are though. 
Parent - - By CWI555 (*****) Date 02-21-2008 14:49
Asking opinions about union or non-union is promised to get varied opinions. Union folks tend to be die hard, the same for non union. The differences in quality levels are not as noticeable as they once where. The same goes for benifits. It depends on your perspective more than anything.
Parent - - By awspartb (***) Date 02-25-2008 01:00
One other thing.  Non-union contractors will drop you fast as you AGE.  Think about this.  You are 20 years old.
If you are welding for another 20 years and a young kid comes in working for half of what you can't keep up with him but he doesn't have your skill level.  You train him and they dump YOU.  Happens all the time.  The iron takes its toll on your body.

Our union takes care of the oldtimers. They teach the younger guys as forman, stewards, instructors or tool room people.  The old tool room guys with the worn out knees and bad eyes are usually some of the smartest people around.

Non-union contractors chucks these people out with the trash. 
Parent - By chrisodom980 (*) Date 02-26-2008 01:14
I agree with you on that. I worked for a very well known  large contractor for about 2 years as a pipewelder, a shutdown came near and they made me a forman, soon as it was over they didnt think twice about laying me off, after two years I thought that was very shi^^y. Thats when i decided to go union, yea are on the check is low but about 10 and hour is going to benifits, and i am at the house everynite, so far i like it.
Up Topic Welding Industry / General Welding Discussion / Union vs Non-Union

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