The primary advantage union representation offers employees is the solidarity it brings to dealing with their employer. A high rate of membership is an important sign of the union's economic strength and its ability to force contractual concessions from an employer. Union membership also gives employees a legal right to influence the direction of their union by participating in its internal governance. Members can vote in union elections or on ratification of the bargaining agreement. Unions in turn support employees in circumstances where they decide to withhold their services, engage in an economic strike or a threat to strike, and put greater economic pressure on the employer to agree to their demands.42
The agreements reached between unions and employers through the collective bargaining process often provide an element of security and certainty, and may establish employee privileges and benefits which otherwise may not have been provided by an employer dealing individually with employees. Such agreements become the primary source of employee rights and responsibilities in the workplace and govern such things as wages, holidays, and health insurance. They are legally enforceable and binding contracts to which the employer, employees, and the union must adhere, and generally cover two- or three-year periods.
Many collective bargaining agreements also provide for a "just cause" standard of review that an employer must use when deciding to discipline or discharge any employee. An arbitration process may be incorporated into an agreement to enable a neutral third party to settle labor-management disputes as to what "just cause" means in each individual case. These employee due process guarantees help workers avoid unexpected or arbitrary terminations.