I think a union of trainers would help trainers who work for large fitness chains. I have seen gyms slash wages by 50% or more for trainers while keeping management salaries untouched. I have also seen gyms fight against unions. I believe it would benefit the maintenance staff at these same facilities who often deal with abuse. What do you think about a trainer/fitness union?
I know that about 85% of all law enforcement officers are union. Usually union is something that you most often see with government jobs, like Joanne said. This is because government employees tend to have more rights in the workplace than do private employees.
The interesting thing about unions is that the employer is under absolutely no obligation to negotiate with your union rep. Furthermore, it offers no legal counsel benefits. Back in the '70s, it used to be that if there was an investigation at work, you were entitled to have union legal counsel for the course of the investigation, where non-union employees were not. That was done away with because it just wasn't fair to everyone.
The purpose of a union, as we know, is to put pressure on the employer to maintain or change policies or conditions that affect the workers. The union only works if the "force is strong." So if you're the only one at the gym that's union, chances are that you'll get fired before you get what you're looking for. This is the nature of private facilities. As I've mentioned before, private facilities have a GREAT DEAL of control over who they hire.
The better alternative here would be to clearly read your contract before signing it. Most people don't know that you have an obligation to understand every aspect of your contract. Don't let "having a job" blind you to the realities of that job. Under some circumstances, you may even be able to negotiate some of the terms in your contract. One thing that people should keep in mind when applying for ANY job is whether or not you're allowed legal representation in the event of an investigation. Read my comment on "Respondeat Superior" in the questions section here, it addresses some of the same issues.
Also, remember that your employer cannot do anything to you or request anything from you that is not spelled out in your contract! A lot of times, contracts will leave a lot of room for interpretation. This is intentional. I would submit to you that it's not uncommon for employers to cut pay and place other restrictions on your employment, simply because they KNOW that you probably won't go back to your contract, and even if you do you're afraid of not having a job, so you just roll with it. Understanding your contract is THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of any job, but especially for jobs in the private sector.
I think that a lot of problems like the ones you stated in the description for the question could be resolved simply by going back to the contract and addressing it with the employer. However, you run the risk of being let go if you aren't willing to comply with the demands of your employer if you're privately employed, which is most often the case with anyone in the fitness industry. If it's not in your contract that your employer can decrease your pay without cause or notice, and you protest it, then get fired, you might have a case for wrongful termination. In this instance, you'd probably lose because the burden of proof is on you to prove that the employer fired you BECAUSE you wouldn't comply with your unlawful pay decrease. In civil court, which is where this would play out, the standard of proof is preponderance of the evidence, meaning that you have to provide the jury with 51% certainty that you were fired unlawfully. This isn't like criminal court (beyond a reasonable doubt). That's why O.J. "did it" in civil court and he "didn't do it" in criminal court. The evidence was overwhelmingly against him, but in the eyes of the jury there was room for reasonable doubt, so he was liable in civil court but not guilty in criminal court.
You don't really have the option of going on strike if you're privately employed, because then you CAN and most likely WILL be fired. Think about the needs of the clientele. It's more important for a fitness facility to get someone who will do the job than it is to negotiate with you over that job, that's how they keep the money coming in.
There are a lot of circumstances that could quickly complicate this issue. Just because something "ain't right" doesn't mean it's not legal.
This turned into another very generic and unrealistic legal example, but the topic is still the same. Unions act in the best interests of the employee. However, in the private sector, it's just too easy to fire you and hire someone else. If everyone got on board and supported one another and really used the union to the full benefit, then in any profession being "union" only has benefits, but you rarely see this happen.
Final opinion... It's a great idea, in theory. But it's highly unrealistic to think that union membership would have a positive impact for fitness employees.
Great Question! I'm interested in hearing more opinions on this!
You certainly have a point. None of the gyms in our area (that I know of) are allowing independent trainers. If you want to work there, you have to be an employee and thus subject to the rules the gym imposes. Since they usually also ask a trainer to sign a non-compete clause, it chains the trainer to the gym and makes it difficult for him or her to become independent. Many of those gyms under-pay and/or ask that the trainer work shifts at very minimal pay. Benefits are usually not paid because it is a part-time position. This leads to a high turn-over and, I believe, also degrades the position of a personal trainer.
I would love to see an improvement there but I am not sure whether unionization is the answer. On the other hand, in the absence of government regulation, this may be the only alternative to improve the situation.
I have seen some gyms where such abuse did not exist. I have an association with a wellness center which is part of a large hospital, and the situation is fundamentally different. But I have also seen the other side, and it is not pretty.
I thank you for your question, Philip. Food for thought .....
I think the underlying words in your question is "large fitness chains". We all know how large corporations operate and focus on, the almighty dollar. We know this before we interview for a position (whatever that position may be) however, that should not stop us from creatively negotiating a salary/wage/percentage based on our experience and getting it in writing. From that point we now know what to expect.
Market conditions, economy, bad management and club ownership can change, thus hindering our income and possibly our job. I experienced a large private owned club sitiuation two years ago when our flat rate independent contractor personal training fees rose from $300 per month to $1200 per month without any internal changes within the club ie: new equipment, new retentive members, advertising etc.
This situation would'nt have changed even if we were unionized...we would simply have been replaced or the club would cease all independent contractors and switch to in house trainers as employees with percentages. Needless to say..all twelve of us seeked employment elsewhere and the club switched to in house trainers/employees, unfortunately reducing the clubs personal training income fees from $172,800 per year to zero. We are still scratching our heads today from their business decision...
Being a future gym owner, I would not want my employees and Personal Trainers to be unionized. I simply would have Personal Trainers as independent contractors. This give them more freedom to co-market themselves to their full potential, budget their expenses and set their schedule and treat it like a small business.
Wish you the Best!
i used to teach classes for NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. Because it was a city job I was part of a union. The work was seasonal.
Phillip, I really don't know enough regarding the pros and cons of being unionized.
Your question is a really great one though.
Collective bargaining can both serve the employee’s interests and impart injustice. It may guard against infringement of individual rights by providing a supportive mechanism to voice disagreements, and preserve fairness. In this regard, collective bargaining may be similar to class action in its ability to even out the power distribution. Yet, collective bargaining binds the individual to the rules of the majority, eliminating the option of judicial review, and to being hear as a singular voice. It may polarize employees and managers, and dismiss compensation for high performance, while at the same time rewarding the undeserving. Having experienced union protection, I must admit it was a comforting freedom. My rights to a fair salary and healthcare compensation were well protected, and I felt that my livelihood was guaranteed as long as I followed the clearly understood rules of play. There are pros and cons to collective bargaining; acceptance, all depends on which side of the fence you stand.
- an individual trainer can serve only one client at a time, and the market will not bear $100 per hour training - at least not for the person you can hire at the club, as opposed to a premium trainer that would come to your home or train you alone.
- even those professionals who earn $100 per hour typically do not rely entirely on client appointments for their income. They teach, speak, write, consult, sell some sort of value-added package, or use lower-paid subordinates to scale the work.
- the things that go with union jobs would lower the wages in a way that the employment market would totally change. A $40 per session, flexible job that might be a sideline to something else (like an art career) or supplemented by something else (like working a half-time job with benefits someplace and seeing clients) is more attractive to many people than a $10 per hour, full-time union job with benefits.
The money is just not there for training in a club to be a very high paying occupation.