Should You Join a Freelancers Union?


Labor unions (aka trade unions) have existed for hundreds of years, gaining popularity during the Industrial Revolution.

Unions are an organization of workers who have banded together to achieve common goals. Although there have been some attempts to outlaw them, they continue to exist pushing the agenda of their members.

As the ranks of freelancers, independent contractors and the self employed have grown (some estimates put the number of independent workers as high as 30% of the US workforce), the need for peer support has given rise to the idea of unions for independent workers.

Should you join a union? Below we look at some of the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Private/Priority Access to Available Jobs and Projects

    Unions will often provide job/project listings exclusively to members, giving you access to additional work opportunities.

    Even when those listings are open to the public, members will often prioritize other Union members when selecting candidates for their jobs.

  • Participate in Key Advocacy Efforts

    As an individual it can be difficult to have your voice heard.

    Decisions that affect you and your business, at the city, state and federal levels can get made without consideration of your opinion. By banding with other like minded individuals your voice can grow louder and be heard at every level, changing or re-enforcing policies.

  • Access to Health Benefits

    Many independent works forgo health insurance when starting out. If they are not covered by previous employers plan (COBRA), or through their spouse, the cost individual insurance plans prohibit the purchase for many people.

    By becoming a member of a union you often have the opportunity to purchase health insurance at a group rate. Not only do you get good deals on monthly fees and lowered deductibles, you may also gain the ability to choose from more than one type of healthcare plan.

    Even if you are able to get insurance from other sources, the union plans may provide better options and pricing for your needs.

  • Networking with your peers

    Being an independent worker can be a lonely existence, rare meetings with clients your only external contact. Unions are a network of like minded, like skilled professionals, that you can turn to for advice and support. Unions are also able to leverage their base of members to organize or access specialty conferences and workshops that can help your improve your skills, with advice from industry leader and peers alike.

  • Get Support for Your Business

    We often forget that being a freelancer does mean you’re in business, albeit a small one. Unions are able to offer advice and support for organizing and running that business as smoothly as possible. The can provide access to relevant articles, industry research and training to help you run a profitable business.

  • Members-only Discounts

    Just as unions are able to negotiate good rates on health insurance, with large enough numbers, unions are also able to gain access to special deals on other products and services their members may need.

    The larger the unions, the better range of offers and size of discounts they may be able to get.

Cons

  • Unions dues

    Although membership has its benefits it comes at a cost. Most Unions require annual dues to cover administrative and other costs related to their operations.

  • Time and Effort

    Unions are often powered by the efforts of their members, the value you gain from being a member will be reflective of the time and effort you are able to put into it.

  • Differing beliefs

    You can’t agree with everyone all the time, but the Unions must present a unified front with representing its members, so sometimes they may put forward a point of view or opinion that you as the minority do you agree with. Depending on how important these issues are for you, may affect if wish to retain your union membership.

  • Leadership controlled

    Although Unions are a collection of workers, they still need leadership to run the day to day operations. That leadership is elected by the members, but much like government, once elected the leadership is under no obligation to do as the members want, unless required by the union bylaws.

Unions and Groups for Independent Contractors

  • Freelancers Union

    The freelancers union is free for all freelance professionals. This group provides certain insurance and retirement plans and benefits. The union is also active politically, advocating the rights of those who rely upon themselves for employment.

  • National Writers Union

    This union is made for freelance writers and independent contractors in all literary fields including books, journalism and online writing.

  • International Webmasters Association

    IWA, a non-profit professional association, is the industry’s recognized leader in providing educational and certification standards for Web professionals.

Are you a member of a freelancers union? What made you join or keeps you out?

About Mubashar Iqbal

Mubashar Iqbal is the creator of Most Inspired, a web designer and developer, who has been building websites for over 13 years. You can read his blog at Mubashar Iqbal
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6 Responses to Should You Join a Freelancers Union?

  1. Just wanted to add outside the articles (didn’t think it was appropriate there), that I’m not a member of any unions, and never have been, although I see the appeal in the right circumstances.

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  4. I’d encourage everyone who can to join the Freelancers union.

    Unions make a positive change in our lives and our society.

    If you want better pay at work – Join a Union!

    If you want a voice at work – Join a Union!

  5. This is a really helpful article. I’m still not sure what I want to do yet, but this has given me some good insight. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Pingback: Freelancers union | ZVision3d