Any young person aiming for a career as a welder faces two options: join a union or work by themselves. With the decision to join a union comes the first question: How to join a welding union?
First of all, you must have an American Welding Society (AWS) certificate. Then, you’ll have to choose a specific local union and apply for membership. After your application has been approved, you will be a bona fide welding union member.
How do you join the right welding union?
There are various unions from which to choose, and each of them has its own fees, rules, representation, benefits, and drawbacks. You will have to sift through all of them to find the one that suits you best.
Different unions cater to specific welding fields that include:
- Ironworkers unions work on structures and construction such as bridges, schools, and vehicle manufacturing.
- Plumbing and pipefitters unions specialize in pipe welding, including public works supply lines or working for private industry.
- Boilermakers unions are involved in industries that include manufacturing, shipbuilding, mining, and railroads.
What are the educational requirements to join a welders union?
Welders unions typically expect a higher level of experience and certification from their members and choose them accordingly. The mastery and education required of them are above what is needed from a non-union welder. Because of this, you must be prepared.
While these requirements could be overwhelming for any would-be welder, enrolling in a trade school or joining an apprenticeship program will give you theoretical and practical training in essential areas such as welding practices, safety, equipment handling, and welding symbols, to name a few.
Throughout your career as a union welder, you will continue to learn, picking up bits of information at each job. Since union welding is often a team job, you will be expected to develop excellent communication and leadership skills.
What is the average welding union salary?
Being a member of a welding union can have a substantial impact on your salary. The average union welder in the U.S. earns $69,190 annually, while the average non-union welder earns around $40,000 a year. One example: Welders in a local union in Tulsa, Oklahoma, earn between $53 and $55 per hour, while comparable non-union jobs in the same city are advertised at around $23 an hour.
Why such a wide disparity? The extensive union membership means they can quickly provide lots of experienced labor, allowing them to charge higher rates than if a company had to source and hire non-union workers individually. Also, unions have profound and enduring relationships with businesses and government agencies, giving them leverage to win contracts.
What are the primary benefits of a welding union?
- Higher pay: As mentioned previously, union members earn more than their counterparts outside the union. Their well-established contacts in business and government, coupled with their ability to send experienced and reliable workers for various types of work, give them a distinct advantage.
- Job security: Competent welding unions fight for their workers. Above and beyond higher pay, they do everything they can to get them a comprehensive benefits package that includes healthcare benefits, retirement funds, and other benefits. While non-union welders have less control of a dismissal, a union member is protected if the discharge is not corroborated.
- Safer work environment: Welding unions pressure their clients to ensure their workplace abides by all the safety protocols, minimizing the risk of injury for their members.
What are some of the disadvantages of welding unions?
While joining a union has its perks, it also has its share of disadvantages. For example:
- Everyone is paid the same: You might be doing above-average work in terms of speed and quality, but you get the same rate as the slackers on your team. Freelancers stand to profit individually from doing high-quality work on time.
- Seniority: Because seniority rules in a union, the older workers get the best jobs, and the newbies get fewer opportunities to showcase their talents. Some young welders might see this as a culture that’s stunting their professional growth.
- Lack of freedom: You are confined to the type of work available through your specific union. It could also mean doing as you’re told and participating in projects where you aren’t a good fit. Independent welders can choose any welding they enjoy.
You can weigh the pros and cons, but at the very least, the benefits of a welding union should make it worth some serious consideration.