Unhappy Union



Dear Dharma,

I hope you take questions from guys because I can’t talk to anyone at work about this.

I’m a new hire in a union job and a lot of the guys have been there for decades. They run the show. They are bullies and very aggressive. From sitting in the shop and not going to the job sites to wrecking the equipment and having mysterious sick days when we are supposed to be in mandatory training, this group of guys does as little as possible and constantly gets away with it. When they are disciplined, they run to the union and cause a huge fuss.

I feel lucky to have this job. I couldn’t afford college so to find a job that pays well, pays for training, and that has benefits is a big deal. But because I work hard and there is a whole group in the “team” that doesn’t, I wind up doing a lot more work than what’s fair.

Being paired up on site with these guys means I’m doing all the work while they sit in the truck playing on their phone. I’m burning out. Fast.

What do I do?


A Team of One

Dear ToO,

Sorry it took so long to answer this question – first there was coffee break… then there was lunch and then… well, you know how it goes…

And of course Dharma takes questions from guys.  In fact, I wish there were more guys that would ask for directions!

Dharma is lucky to know a person or two who work in the pro non-union sector, so she reached out to get their feedback.

Sadly this is quite a common story that I hear.  People in unions somehow feel that they are untouchable and above the requirements and rules of the job.  They really do get away with a lot of unsavory behavior.

Honestly, there is the potential for this behavior in any job, but it is more common in union situations.  I feel bad for the writer as it seems that all he is looking for is a job where he is supported and has some sense of security.

There are companies that do offer all of this support, but it depends on the work levels that are needed in the industry.  I would maybe suggest to him that if this is something that bothers him enough to want to leave, he should reach out to a local construction association to see what other options may be available to him outside a union.

So while this doesn’t help you deal with the actual situation head on, what I am reading between the lines is that you, as a Team of One, may not be able to affect the change you are looking for within your particular environment.

Your letter definitely outlines the pros and cons of a union environment though, doesn’t it… Paid training, good benefits, stability – in that you could pretty much show up naked with a sign saying “I’m too cold to work” – and still get paid… combined with… let’s call it a “different” work ethic.

Our expert makes a great point too – that this behavior doesn’t only exist in unions.  You could find yourself up against this wherever you go.

So really – it’s up to you to measure the pros and cons and determine what you can live with. Not much help, expect perhaps to put things into perspective.



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Categories: Advice, Co-workers, conflict, Work

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