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Can a Felon Get a Union Job?

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Those convicted of a felony lose a number of their rights, including the right to have certain jobs or receive a license to engage in particular trades. Felons often think no one will hire them, but there are resources available. They may have to be willing to learn a new trade or start a different career.

This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can get a union job.

  • What is a Labor Union?
  • Types of Labor Unions
  • Benefits of Joining a Union
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What is a Labor Union?

A labor union is an organization of workers designed to protect their interests and improve wages, hours, and working conditions. Members pay dues to the union to help cover the costs of these services and benefits. Many different types of workers belong to unions: mechanics, teachers, factory workers, police officers, airline pilots, and doctors.

Types of Labor Unions

There are three main types of labor unions: craft unions, industrial unions, and public employee unions.

Craft unions represent workers in a specific occupation, such as machinists, carpenters, and electrical workers. Craft unions in the United States include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the United Auto Workers, and the International Association of Machinists.

Industrial unions represent workers in a particular industry, regardless of the workers’ specific occupations, such as transportation or food service. One of the largest industrial unions in the United States is the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The Teamsters Union is made up of workers in a variety of industrial jobs, including trucking, warehouse, and construction.

The third type of labor union is public employee unions, which represent government workers. Two of the largest labor unions in the United States are public sector unions: The National Education Association (NEA), representing public school employees, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) which represents employees in different levels of government.

Benefits of Joining a Union

The main benefit of a labor union is that it gives workers the power to negotiate for more favorable working conditions and other benefits through collective bargaining. There were approximately 14.012 million members of labor unions in the U.S. in 2022, showing that a number of people see the benefits of being in a union.

Union workers get about 20 percent more in terms of wages compared to others in similar non-union jobs. Union workers are also more likely to receive pay raises on a regular basis. Union workers are more likely to enjoy better job benefits compared to non-union employees. That includes health, retirement accounts, and paid sick leave.

Union employees also have greater job security. There must be a legitimate cause to fire a union employee, such as evidence of misconduct or poor performance. Non-union workers are usually considered “at-will” employees, meaning they can be fired for any reason like reporting late for work, as long as it is not based on discrimination regarding gender, race or religion.

An Opportunity for Felons?

There are laws that disqualify individuals with certain convictions, but there is no law prohibiting a felon from joining a union. The challenge would be finding a job within a particular union as many place restrictions to uphold the standards set by that union. Examples would be a trade having licensing restrictions like an electrician, plumber, or engineer.

Felons with certain convictions are generally not eligible to work in specific occupations requiring a license and involving union membership. The restrictions on felons typically include those with an offense:

  • Involving fraud or deceptive trade practices because they would have the opportunity to practice fraud related to the need for services
  • Against children or a sexual crime because they would have access to private homes and employees at a business
  • Against property like theft or burglary because they would come into contact with unprotected property
  • Of homicide, kidnapping, or assault because they could endanger persons they encountered on the job with their violent tendencies

It is important to be honest in filling out an application for a job or when applying for certification, licensing, or a job in a profession covered by a union. If a felony isn’t disclosed but is found on a background check, this constitutes fraud and is punishable. It is a crime to falsify an application, which could result in being sent back to prison.

In order to be successful in getting a union job, it is essential for felons to be honest about their background since they are already viewed with negative perceptions of being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.

Having their record expunged can give them the chance they need to begin with a clean record and succeed in getting a union job. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It is a big challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon wanting to get a union job. Giving him or herself the best chance for success by having his or her record expunged and also documenting any training programs or additional education could make the essential difference.

Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We are not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to get a union job with a felony? What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “Can a Felon Get a Union Job?”

  1. As A Fellow Felon I find it quite difficult this day in age to get a job that is not Manual Labor. I’m getting older and the body is not liking the rough jobs. It seems like its the only jobs in this state I’m allowed to do. People would rather bring up the past of over Ten years ago than look towards the future at what I am able to provide. I am no longer that person and am able to prove such with work references and commitment. But no one cares about that. Just what has been done.

  2. I am a felon, but I have my OSHA 30, am a certified Fiber Optic Installer, am a Certified Wireless Technician and I have my Ariel lift certification for a Boom lift as well scissor lift. I’m looking to get into the Union. I live in Las Vegas for 9 1/2 years. I’ve worked with the same company since I moved out here in 2011. But, we are so slow and I’m looking for a new opportunity hopefully in the Union if they will have me. My past is my past. I have a family now and have turned my life around. I’m dependable and skilled in my profession. I love what I do and am willing to start where ever I am needed. Just need a chance to prove myself. I can pass a drug screening. And I just want a chance to advance my future and take care of and provide for my family.


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