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How to Become Union President

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A union is an organization of workers who typically belong to the same trade and who use collective bargaining to negotiate with employers. This can lead to better working conditions, improvements in wages and improved employee benefits, among other gains.

Those interested in spearheading a union should be active union members with a sincere interest in advocating for workers' rights, including (but not limited to) fair pay, diversity, family leave, healthcare, benefits, hours and workplace safety. Unions give workers the power to improve their workplace, and union presidents play a critical part in this.

Job Description

All union members have power within the union, and all help to make general policy decisions. But union members also select their own officers and representatives. Although the union makes decisions collectively, officers (especially the president) serve important roles within the organization.

A union leader manages the day-to-day affairs of the union and helps the union achieve its overall mission within the workplace. Union president duties may include managing employer and union member relations, helping maintain order, leading meetings, processing grievances, organizing new members, and overseeing the rest of the labor union officers. In many cases, a union leader may help organize a strike, which is when a group of workers stops working in protest over labor conditions or as a bargaining tool during negotiations.

From an ideological standpoint, a union president is someone who cares deeply about workers' rights and has stellar leadership qualities, including strong management and negotiation skills, and the ability to maintain a harmonious, nurturing atmosphere among union members. In short, a union president plays an integral role in shaping the workplace and advocating for themselves and their coworkers.

Education Requirements

To become a union leader, you do not need to obtain a college degree or other post-secondary education. In general, unions represent workers of all levels of education, and this extends to leadership within the union. Union president responsibilities do require a level of understanding and knowledge that goes beyond what is typically expected of general membership, of course.

If you want to become a union leader, you do need to be employed by the company and be an active member of the union. You must also possess in-depth knowledge of how unions operate and be willing to organize and run the affairs of the union, ensuring that all members' needs are met. Above all, union leaders must remain committed to the cause: creating lasting, progressive structural change for your workplace.


As a union president, you'll work closely with both the executive board and the general membership of your union. Though union expectations may differ, you'll likely be asked to direct board meetings and ensure that the union's day-to-day activities are running smoothly. Union presidents also preside over the vice president, secretary and treasurer (and any other executive board members) and are thus intimately acquainted with other jobs in the hierarchy of the local union.

In addition to upper-level administrative tasks, union leaders are generally responsible for monitoring and reporting exploitative working conditions, effectively bargaining for better wages and providing an effective support system for all employees.

Salary and Job Growth Trend

A union president may receive a stipend by the union, though this is case-dependent. Often, if the president is required to travel, the travel expenses will be covered. Union presidents may receive a formal annual salary, but this depends on the union.

As long as there are formal workplaces, there will always be unions. Unions protect workers from unjust dismissal and unfair treatment and provide a source of collective power for the powerless. Because of this, a union president can expect to have a long, fulfilling career.


Justine Harrington is a writer based in Austin, Texas. Her work has been published in Forbes, USA Today, Fodor's, American Way, Marriott Bonvoy Traveler, Texas Highways, Austin Monthly, and dozens of other print and online publications.