Welding Unions: Benefits, Pay, and Types (2023)

When my young friend graduated from welding school, he was encouraged to join the union. He asked for advice about what it means when you become a member of this organization and how that might affect his paychecks in both good ways as well as bad ones?

There are many benefits of joining unions for welders. Welding unions work to ensure safe, healthy environments so members can enjoy a good quality of life. Unions also negotiate better salaries and retirement benefits that their members deserve.

For many welders joining a welding union is the first step in their career, but it has drawbacks that make them unappealing for some.

Welding Unions: Benefits, Pay, and Types (1)

In this guide, I answer the following questions and more:

  • Should a welder join a union? What are the benefits and disadvantages?
  • How much do union welders make?
  • Which welding unions should a welder join?
  • And more…


Should a Welder Join a Union?

You might be wondering if it is worth joining a welders’ union to get a job. You know welders have many other options because demand is high for those willing to work.

You could work as an independent welder or open your own business with yourself by starting up your own small construction company; however, these paths won’t always guarantee income stability.

So what is the best decision for you, join or union or work as a non-union welder? Before you make a snap decision, let’s look at some of the benefits union welders have:

Benefits of Welder Unions: Top Reasons to Join a Union

When welders come together, things become better for everyone. Joining welder unions has several benefits, and so it is little wonder that more than 1/4th of all welders in the United States belong to welding unions. Here are some of the main benefits of joining a union:

#1. Better wages and benefits

Through a union, workers can demand better wages, decent work hours, medical and retirement benefits, and more family time. Welders who belong to unions get a collective bargaining power. A welder without a coalition backing him may not be in a position to negotiate for better wages and benefits, as mentioned earlier.

Through the union, welders can negotiate and renegotiate their work contracts with their employers. They can renegotiate their salary, seek better work-life balance, the number of work hours they are comfortable with, paid sick leaves, and comprehensive safety policies.


Unions can also help increase worker compensations, minimum wages, Family Medical Leave Act, and American Disability Act.

A welder who works at an unionized workplace is also more likely to have 401K plans, pension plans, IRA, and other retirement benefits which solo or freelance welders may not get.

The most crucial advantage of unions is that they ensure that the workplaces meet the most stringent safety standards.

#2. Protection of member’s rights

A welder that does not belong to any union is at a greater risk of being fired for things that sometimes don’t even happen at the workplace. With unions, these rights can be are protected. A welder will have a permanent workplace advocate, thanks to the association. Should a disciplinary process takes place against the welder, they can contest it and ensure that the grievance procedures are followed.

#3. Unions can be extremely beneficial during a crisis

The world has been battling the Covid-19 pandemic for the past couple of years. Now more than ever, the pandemic has highlighted the need for unions. Unions have given welders a collective voice during the crisis. Many unionized welders could secure enhanced safety measures, sick/leave pay, and work-share arrangements to save jobs.

#4. The union difference is clear

If the above benefits are still not impressive, then take a look at some of the statistics:

  • Health insurance and pension plans

According to the AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) California website, union members can have better health insurance and pension plans. Nearly 95% of union members have health insurance and pension plans against the 68% (health insurance) and 63% (pension) of workers not belonging to unions.

  • Sick leave

According to the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations), almost 91% of workers in a union received paid sick leaves as against 73% that are not in a union. (The AFL-CIO is the largest federation of unions. It is reported to have 12 million workers worldwide.)

  • Higher median wages per week

The weekly earnings of unionized welders are estimated to be nearly $200 more in their median weekly wages compared to non-unionized workers.

  • Better rights for minorities

The median weekly wages for unionized Latinos could be almost $300 more than for Latinos not with a union. Likewise, the median weekly wages for unionized Blacks are nearly $200 more than those without union membership.

Cons of Joining Welding Unions

It is good to know about the downside of joining welding unions. This will help you make an informed decision:

#1. High union fees

Joining a union isn’t free or cheap. Some unions ask members to pay nearly two hours’ worth of work wages per month, while some charge a fee between $200 and $500 per year. This can be a significant amount for someone just starting out. Also, there are other fees involved in union memberships like an apprenticeship, initiation fees, and annual/monthly fees. These can also add up.

#2. Could lead to discord between the workers and the companies

Sometimes, unions pitch their members against their client company, negatively impacting the workplace culture. Often, unions do not allow workers and Company officials to work towards the same goals. Also, there may be members that do not agree with the changes the unions suggest. This, too, can lead to tension and conflicts between workers and the union.

(Video) Union vs Non Union - There is a difference!

#3. Could lead to political tension

Some worker unions are affiliated with lobbyists and governments at the local, state, and federal levels. If a member does not agree or support these causes, there could be conflicts. A worker would still have to join in the strikes even if they don’t want to.

Now that you know what joining a union entails let us move on to the unions one can join as a welder.

Welding Unions: Benefits, Pay, and Types (2)

Which Unions Can Welders Join in the USA?

You can choose between Ironworkers, Pipefitters, or Boilermaker unions as a welder.

Joining a union is not straightforward; you need to meet specific pre-requisites. These prerequisites differ from union to union. Some unions have rigorous education and experience related-requirements, while others may demand mandatory work experience or apprenticeship.

Most welder unions require their members to get mandatory AWS certification. AWS stands for the American Welding Society. The basic AWS certified welding program is open to all, and there are no prerequisites or courses you need to take for it. You can appear for the certification exam at any accredited testing facility or give the exam online.


When you belong to the Ironworkers union, you can get jobs in the construction industry. You will be working on private, commercial, residential, and industrial building projects. You could be involved in constructing or repairing roads and highways, on tall buildings, etc.

You must know how to use different welding tools outdoors just as you use them in the workshop. As an Ironworker, your primary responsibility would be using welding tools in workshops or outdoors, demolition of structures, and installing iron structures.

Here are some pre-requisites for joining the Ironworkers’ union:

  • Age 18+ years
  • Education – minimum high school diploma, GED
  • Physically strong, agile, and have a good sense of balance
  • Refrain from drugs and alcohol consumption
  • Abide by citizenship laws

To find the local Ironworker’s unions, click here.


The only pre-requisite to joining a Boilermaker’s Apprenticeship Program is to be 18 years of age. You also need to show a copy of your high school diploma or GED. You will also need to read the Guidelines for Apprenticeship Approved Standards.

If you have experience in welding, you will be grouped with other experienced welders. Applicants then go through a random selection process to be indentured into an apprenticeship program. Veterans are given top priority in this selection.

Boilermaker welders work in the energy industry, and you will be responsible for working on turbines, steam engines, etc. You’d also be skilled in tank cleaning, extensive pipe maintenance, and reducing air pollution in chimneys.

Click here to join union boilermaker.

(Video) Pros & Cons of Unions


Pre-requisites for joining pipefitters union include:

  • At least 17 years of age
  • Must be a citizen of the US or must have applied for the naturalization process
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Driver’s license
  • Pay a fee, and apply for an aptitude test.
  • If they reach the cut-off score in the aptitude test, candidates will have to give a drug test.

Pipefitters perform complex tasks like pipe cutting and threading. They also perform maintenance on large pipe systems and replace the worn-out parts.

Click here to find out more.

Do Union Welders Make More Money Than Non-Union Welders?

In general, union welders make more money than their non-union counterparts; however, your earnings depend on your welding degree, certifications, and experience. According to Comparably, the US median salary of union welders is $69,910.

On average, the salary of unionized workers is higher than non-unionized workers. According to statistics released in 2021, union welders averaged $43,891, and non-union welders earn just under $40,000 a year.

How Hard is it Getting into a Welding Union?

These days, it is relatively challenging to join welders’ unions since many US Labor Laws post massive strike waves have made it difficult for organizing unions in the first place. This is further exacerbated by the fact that the courts have allowed the removal of membership fees and dues payment to workers who are not in favor of union representation.


What is the best-paying welding job?

In general, rig and underwater welders are the best paying welding jobs; they can make up to $200,000 per year.

How much do union pipeline welders make?

Top pipeline welders belonging to unions make almost $95,000 with an average hourly wage of $45.

How much do California union welders make?

According to ZipRecruiter, California union welders make almost $39,247 a year.

(Video) Union to Non Union Comparison


Whether or not to join a welders union is a crucial decision every welder will have to make pretty early in one’s career. Joining a welder union has many benefits such as collective bargaining power to demand better wages, workplace safety, retirement benefits, work-life balance, sick paid leaves, etc.

On the downside, joining a union could sometimes lead to disharmony or discord with the company and the union itself. Moreover, joining unions is tough these days, thanks to strict amendments in Labor Laws.

As Alexander Hertel-Fernandez – associate professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, puts it: “Unions may not be perfect, but they are still a worker’s (welder’s) best shot at securing dignity and rights on the job.”

More Welding Gear Reviews

  • 7 Types of Welding Processes and Their Uses

  • Welding Hazards and Safety Precautions

  • Cold Welding: What it's used for and how it works.

  • Arc vs Mig Welding, What's the Difference?

    (Video) Mike Rowe Roasts Critics Who Think “Welding Won’t Make You Rich” | TJHS Ep. 264 (CLIP)


What are the benefits of a welding union? ›

A welding union can make sure that employers provide a safe place to work and follow safety protocols. In case of workplace accidents, the welding union can advocate for benefits like paid medical leave, health care coverage and job security for when they recover.

What is the top pay for union welders? ›

While ZipRecruiter is seeing salaries as high as $75,890 and as low as $22,033, the majority of Union Welder salaries currently range between $36,721 (25th percentile) to $46,513 (75th percentile) with top earners (90th percentile) making $59,243 annually in California.

Do welders make 100k a year? ›

A career in welding gives you the chance to work with your hands, be outside and travel – all with great income potential. With the right welding job, you can make $100,000 or more a year and enjoy what you do. What's not to like about that?

What unions do welding? ›

The answer is the United Association (UA), an organization that has been training and certifying welders for over 130 years, longer than anyone else in American industry.

What are the pros and cons of a union? ›

Labor unions benefit their members by negotiating better pay, benefits, and working conditions. Critics maintain that union contracts make it more difficult for a company to fire unproductive employees, and that they increase long-term costs which decreases competitiveness.

Do welders make enough money? ›

That depends on who you ask. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average welder's salary is $42,000 dollars per year. BLS stats mean 50% of welders in the United States earned more than that figure and 50% earn less.

Do welders make $100 an hour? ›

Depending on the job they undertake, they can make up to $120 per hour if it's difficult to complete. Some jobs may require the welder to be at sea for 30 days. Education requirements: A high school diploma and GED is required, along with two to five years of experience with welding on land.

Which union pays the most? ›

High Paying Union Jobs
  • Union Construction. Salary range: $75,500-$120,000 per year. ...
  • Operating Engineer Union. Salary range: $58,500-$108,000 per year. ...
  • Ibew Electrical Union. Salary range: $48,500-$74,000 per year. ...
  • Union Tower Climber. ...
  • Labor Union Representative. ...
  • Union Cdl Driver. ...
  • Union Masonry. ...
  • Union Cannabis.

Where is the highest paid welders? ›

Alaska. The highest-paying state for welders is Alaska. The welding professionals working in Alaska have an annual salary of $70,000. The high salaries in Alaska are due to the state's vital oil and gas industry, which requires many skilled welding professionals.

Why do welders get paid so much? ›

Since every industry needs to progress, every individual working in an industry will need to accustom themselves to high-end customized materials. Thus, by using specialized and sophisticated equipment, one may increase the overall productivity of a particular industry.

Can you make 300k a year as a welder? ›

As a basic welder, the pay is pretty decent, but it's not the most lucrative of careers. With an annual salary ranging from $30,000 – $60,000 depending on experience, it's a career that will afford you a decent life, but you won't be stacking away the savings or buying a second home on this salary.

Do welders work in a union? ›

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.

Who is the largest employer in welding? ›

In the United States, the largest employer of welders is the manufacturing industry.

What is the best branch for welding? ›

Every branch offers a different experience:
  • Army: Think ground troops. ...
  • Air Force: Air force welders do most of the same tasks as Army welders. ...
  • Marines: The real deal. ...
  • Navy: Many welders consider the Navy to be the superior training experience.
Mar 28, 2016

Do unions give raises? ›

Unions raise wages for all workers

Workers with union representation enjoy a significant pay premium compared to non-union workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports non-union workers earn just 85 percent of what unionized workers earn ($1,029/week vs. $1,216/week).

What are 4 positives of joining a union? ›

Union members work together to negotiate and enforce a contract with management that guarantees the things you care about like decent raises, affordable health care, job security, and a stable schedule. Better workplaces and working conditions without the fear of retaliation.

Is it worth to be in a union? ›

Workplaces with unions pay better and offer more benefits than workplaces without one. On average, unionized workers make 30% more than others, and are more likely to have health insurance and a retirement plan. If you have a conflict with your employer, the union will help negotiate it for you.

Is welding a high income skill? ›

Welding is among the highest paying skilled trades in the country with a median entry-level wage of over $40,000 per year or about $20 per hour. It's also an accessible career since the requirement to begin learning the trade is usually a high school diploma (or GED).

How much do most welders make? ›

Welder salaries typically range between $29,000 and $54,000 a year. The average hourly rate for welders is $19.08 per hour.

Is welding a good side hustle? ›

As the demand for welders grows, it's possible to make extra income by turning an at-home welding hobby or a career into a profitable side-hustle. You don't have to give up your day job—not yet, at least. And in many cases, you could end up earning a higher hourly rate than you do from your employer.

How much is $20 an hour annually? ›

How much does a $20 An Hour make? As of Jun 1, 2023, the average annual pay for a $20 An Hour in the United States is $40,760 a year.

How much a year is $1000 an hour? ›

No mater how you cut it, though, $1,000 an hour is impressive. Bill the annual average of 2,200 hours and that's a nice $2.2 million in gross pay.

How much is $30 an hour annually? ›

How much does a 30$ An Hour make? As of Jun 1, 2023, the average annual pay for a 30$ An Hour in the United States is $240,666 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $115.70 an hour. This is the equivalent of $4,628/week or $20,055/month.

Is union pay better? ›

It pays to be in a union. Literally. Workers who are members of labor unions in the United States make 18% more than their nonunion counterparts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' annual report on union membership, published today.

Do unions get better pay? ›

Workers covered by a union contract in California earn an average of 12.9 percent more than non-union workers with similar demographic characteristics and working in similar industries. Overall, we estimate that unions increase workers' earnings in California by $18.5 billion annually through collective bargaining.

What is the best union to join? ›

If a career as part of a labor union excites you, consider some of the best union jobs out there:
  1. School bus driver. National average salary: $16.48 per hour. ...
  2. Carpenter. National average salary: $20.67 per hour. ...
  3. Machinist. ...
  4. Electrician. ...
  5. Nuclear power reactor operator. ...
  6. Tractor-trailer truck driver.
Oct 14, 2022

What type of welder is in high demand? ›

Pipe welders will always be in high demand as long as the demand for fuel and other resources is high. Many pipe welders work on oil rigs and refineries. These facilities comprise the majority of the oil and gas industry.

What state hires the most welders? ›

Maine. Maine has the highest concentration of welding careers. Welders in this state receive a high annual average income compared to other nations in the US. Also, there is a great demand for skilled workers in this area.

Is welding a good career in 2023? ›

There is an increasing demand for welders in various industries such as manufacturing, construction, and transportation. As the economy recovers from the pandemic, many of these industries are likely to experience growth, which could lead to more job opportunities for welders.

Why do welders get per diem? ›

Per diem welders have the same job as salaried welders; they fuse metal together using intense heat. The main difference is per diem welders receive an additional daily stipend to be used for food, travel, and other expenses incurred while on the job.

Is there a big demand for welders? ›

Overall, an average of about 49,200 job openings for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers are expected each year over the next decade!

What is the difference between welder 1 and welder 2? ›

The Welder 1 level is distinguished from the Welder 2 by the absence of complex welding requiring skill in specialized welding techniques.

How many hours a week do welders work? ›

Work Conditions

The standard work week for welders and related machine operators is 40 hours (8 hours a day, 5 days a week). As with many careers in construction, there are peak periods that will require you to work overtime.

What blue collar jobs pay the most? ›

10 high-paying blue-collar jobs
  1. Construction and building inspector. ...
  2. Structural iron and steel worker. ...
  3. Locomotive engineer. ...
  4. Radio and telecommunications equipment installer. ...
  5. Gas plant operator. ...
  6. Electrical line installer and repairer. ...
  7. Boilermaker. ...
  8. Powerhouse, substation and relay repairer.
Mar 10, 2023

How much is 6 figures? ›

“Six figures” simply refers to a number with six digits. Typically used with money, the term covers amounts from $100,000 to $999,999. (Once you hit 1 million, you're in seven-figure territory.) Someone with a six-figure salary makes at least $100K.

What trade has the most millionaires? ›

In broader terms, the finance and investment profession has the most millionaires.

What trade is the hardest work? ›

When asked what type of work was most difficult to master (out of 32 different trades), the two groups of respondents (the average age of which was 43 years old) were in agreement again — electrical work was the hardest to master, followed by carpentry, HVAC, and cabinets/countertops.

What is the hardest trade to learn? ›

What is the hardest trade to learn? Electrical and HVAC trades require intensive technical training, which can be difficult to learn. Electrician schools teach students how to install, maintain, and repair electrical systems.

What is a union pipeline welder? ›

Chartered in 1949, Pipeliners Local 798 is a trade union that provides the highest quality of pipeline Welders to contractors across the country. Pipeliners Local 798 represents individuals with a high skill level who weld together the various sections of oil and gas pipelines.

Is welding considered a career? ›

Welding is an overarching career, as there are many different career paths you can pursue within welding. No matter what your area of interest is, you can probably find a welding job that suits you. You do not have to commit to being an active welder for the rest of your life if you choose a welding career.

What trade are welders in? ›

A welder is a mechanical trades worker who joins and cuts metal parts by applying heat. This is done with either hand-held or remotely controlled welding machines. They can work in many industries, including industrial, manufacturing, and construction.

What is the hardest welding job? ›

Average Nuclear Industry Welder Salary: $67,000 per year

Welders in the nuclear industry might work on pipelines, underwater, or in the military. They must pass a demanding screening process, including FBI clearance, to become nuclear certified, making it one of the most difficult welding positions to obtain.

What is the top 5 welding company? ›

Top 10 GMAW Welding Machine Brands in the World (in 2023)
  1. Miller Electric. Miller Electric is a well-known welding machine brand that has been established for a century, and the safety and quality of its welding machines are reliable. ...
  2. Lincoln Electric. ...
  3. ESAB. ...
  4. Hobart. ...
  5. Everlast. ...
  6. Megmeet. ...
  7. Forney. ...
  8. Lotos.
Mar 1, 2023

What is the most popular welding job? ›

Here are five of the top welding jobs:
  • Pipe welder.
  • Aerospace welder.
  • Military support welder.
  • Underwater welder.
  • Certified welding supervisor.
Jun 24, 2022

Which welding position is the most difficult to master? ›

The overhead position weld is the most difficult position to work in. The welding will be performed with the two pieces of metal above the welder, and the welder will have to angle him or herself and the equipment to reach the joints.

What is the hardest welding certification to get? ›

The 6G pipe weld is one of the most difficult weld certification tests to pass because the pipe is at a 45-degree angle and immovable. Welders performing the 6G certification test must weld in all positions including horizontal, vertical and overhead, and may have to weld both right-handed and left-handed.

Where do welders make the most money? ›

Alaska. The highest-paying state for welders is Alaska. The welding professionals working in Alaska have an annual salary of $70,000. The high salaries in Alaska are due to the state's vital oil and gas industry, which requires many skilled welding professionals.

Do welders have their own union? ›

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.

Why is welding a high paying job? ›

High demand in the field

Welders provide necessary services to various industries, including manufacturing, transportation and infrastructure. Working in a high-demand field can be beneficial, as it guarantees stable employment and higher wages because the skills of the trade are highly valuable to employers.

Why do welders get paid a lot? ›

Since every industry needs to progress, every individual working in an industry will need to accustom themselves to high-end customized materials. Thus, by using specialized and sophisticated equipment, one may increase the overall productivity of a particular industry.

What types of welding pay the most? ›

The highest paying welder jobs are in industrial construction. Pipe welders, tube welders, rig welders, underwater welders and combo welders are the highest paid of all welding jobs. The type of welding is important and so is the industry. The top welder salary can be over $200,000 per year in industrial construction.

What state is best for welding? ›

Maine has the highest concentration of welding careers. Welders in this state receive a high annual average income compared to other nations in the US. Also, there is a great demand for skilled workers in this area.

Who employs the most welders? ›

Here's a closer look at 5 key industries that use welding. Manufacturing. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, manufacturing employs the majority of welders, with more than 400,000 jobs in this industry alone in 2021. That's more than 60% of the welding jobs.

Can you be your own boss as a welder? ›

Dream of Being Your Own Boss

If you develop the right in-demand skills, you can start your own welding or fabrication company and hire employees to grow the business. You can also go the solo route and be a freelance welder where companies can hire you for a short-term contract to complete a specific job.

Are welders in demand 2023? ›

Job Outlook

Employment of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2021 to 2031, slower than the average for all occupations.

Is welding in high demand in 2023? ›

The United States Welding Materials Market size was estimated at USD 3,180.61 million in 2022, USD 3,468.12 million in 2023 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 7.21% to reach USD 5,553.30 million by 2030.

What is the highest paying job? ›

Highest-Paying Occupations
Physicians, All Other$223,410382.40%
Ophthalmologists, Except Pediatric$219,810374.60%
General Internal Medicine Physicians$214,460363.10%
17 more rows


1. Job Talks - Boilermaker - Heidi Explains the Different Places Boilermakers Work
(Job Talks)
2. union vs non-union | commercial vs. residential | carpenter vs tradesman
(Nomadic INK)
(Welderbeast LLC)
4. Getting into the Trades: Union vs Non-union | EP 1: Pipefitters 123
5. 10 Pros and Cons of Being a Welder
6. Union vs Non-Union Welder
(Kentucky Welding Institute)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Msgr. Refugio Daniel

Last Updated: 11/08/2023

Views: 5382

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (54 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Msgr. Refugio Daniel

Birthday: 1999-09-15

Address: 8416 Beatty Center, Derekfort, VA 72092-0500

Phone: +6838967160603

Job: Mining Executive

Hobby: Woodworking, Knitting, Fishing, Coffee roasting, Kayaking, Horseback riding, Kite flying

Introduction: My name is Msgr. Refugio Daniel, I am a fine, precious, encouraging, calm, glamorous, vivacious, friendly person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.