A union is an organized group of workers who collectively use their strength to have a voice in their workplace. Through a union, workers have a right to impact wages, work hours, benefits, workplace health and safety, job training and other work-related issues. Under U. S. law, workers of all ages have the right to join a union. Having support from the union to ensure fairness and respect in the workplace is one of the key reasons workers organize. All of the benefits and protections workers enjoy today came about as a result of the organized labor movement in this country.
These include the minimum wage, social security payments, an eight-hour day and weekends, overtime pay, the American with Disabilities Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act which requires employers to meet safety standards for their workers. A wider range of people than ever before, including many women and immigrants, are joining unions— security officers, doctors and nurses, poultry workers and graduate employees, home health care aides and wireless communications workers, auto parts workers and engineers, to name a few.
There are various ways to classify unions, such as public unions of government workers, private unions for business-sector workers, professional unions for white-collar workers and craft unions for blue-collar workers. There are also business unions to advance workers’ benefits and political unions to deal with the government. Most American labor unions are business unions that support the capitalist system and work to enhance members’ wages, benefits and working conditions.
Many American labors unions also do the work political unions do, such as lobbying for and supporting political parties and individual candidates. Most unionized workers in America are members of industrial unions, such as the United Auto Workers, a private union. Historically, industrial unions represented workers from related fields, but have been diversifying their members’ occupations in recent years. For example, in the 1990s, the UAW added the National Writers Union, Graphics Artists Guild and some university employees.
Craft unions traditionally represent highly skilled laborers in closely related industries. Craft unions represent trade workers in the construction industry such as electricians, carpenters and plumbers. These unions help place workers in jobs and also perform collective bargaining on wages and benefits. Professional unions represent highly skilled workers with degrees or special licenses. The National Education with degrees or special license Association of teachers, staff and other public school employees is an example of a professional union.
The NEA is also a public union. Today, millions of workers want to join unions. Wise employers understand that when workers form unions, their companies also benefit. But the law is so weak that most employers to fight workers’ efforts to come together by intimidating, harassing and threatening them. In response, workers and their unions build coalitions with community clergy, and politicians to help them exercise their freedom and right to form a Union. Unions can be categorized according to ideology and organizational forms.
A distinction is often made between political unionism and business unionism. Although the goals and objectives of politically oriented unions may overlap those of business unions, political unions are primarily related to some larger working-class movement. Most political unions have some formal association with a working-class political party; these types of unions are more prevalent in Europe than they are in the United States. Contemporary American labor unions are best viewed as business unions.
Business unions generally support the capitalist economic system and focus their attention on protecting and enhancing the economic welfare of the workers they represent, usually through some form of collective bargaining. According to U. S. law, unions can bargain with employers over wages, hours, and working conditions. The earliest unions in the United States were known as craft unions. Craft unions represent employees in a single occupation or group of closely related occupations. The members of craft unions are generally highly skilled workers.
Examples of craft unions include the various skilled trades in the construction industry, such as carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work. Craft unions are most common in occupations in which employees frequently switch employers. A construction worker is usually hired to complete work at a specific job site and then moves on to work elsewhere (often for another employer). In addition to collective bargaining, craft unions often serve as a placement service for members. Employers contact the union’s hiring hall and union members currently out of work are referred to the job.
Closely related to craft unions, though distinct in many respects, are professional unions. A professional is generally understood to be an employee with advanced and highly specialized skills, often requiring some credentials, such as a college degree and/or a license. Professional unions are much more recent than craft unions and are most common in the public sector. Teacher’s unions are one of the most visible examples of this kind of union. Labor Union A labor union is an organization of workers joined to protect their common interests and improve their working conditions.
It serves as an intermediary between the employer and the employees. The main purpose is to give workers power to negotiate more favorable working conditions through collective bargaining. Some of the largest and/or most prominent unions in the U. S. include the United Auto Workers, Service Employees International Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the United Steelworkers.
Although much smaller compared to their peak membership in the 1950s, American unions remain a political factor, both through mobilization of their own emberships and through coalitions with like-minded activist organizations around issues such as immigrant rights, trade policy, health care, and living wage campaigns. Of special concern are efforts by cities and states to reduce the pension obligations owed to unionized workers who retire in the future. Republicans elected with Tea Party support in 2010, most notably Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, have launched major efforts against public sector unions due in part to state government pension obligations along with the allegation that the unions are too powerful.
States with higher levels of union membership tend to have higher median incomes and standards of living. It has been asserted by scholars and the International Monetary Fund that rising income inequality in the United States is directly attributable to the decline of the labor movement and union membership. Once the government ratifies a union’s position as representing a group of workers, it represents them exclusively, whether or not particular employees want collective representation. In 2002, unions represented about 1. million waged and salaried employees who were not union members. There are many laws and court decisions that govern unions, a few of which will be discussed below. The main source of law regarding unions is federal law, as most unions are national organizations. The most important federal laws governing unions include the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the Labor Management Relations Act (also known as the Taft-Hartley Act), and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, discussed in more detail below.
While the NLRA generally governs union organizing and collective bargaining for private sector employment, the Railway Labor Act governs employment relations for airlines and railroads enforced by the National Mediation Board, and public sector collective bargaining is generally regulated by state statute. Many unions have won higher wages and better working conditions for their members. In doing so, however, they have reduced the number of jobs available in unionized companies. That second effect occurs because of the basic law of demand: if unions successfully raise the price of labor, employers will purchase less of it.
Thus, unions are a major anticompetitive force in labor markets. Their gains come at the expense of consumers, nonunion workers, the jobless, taxpayers, and owners of corporations. Labor unions cannot prosper in a competitive environment. Like other successful cartels, they depend on government patronage and protection. Worker cartels grew in surges during the two world wars and the Great Depression of the 1930s. According to Harvard economists Richard Freeman and James Medoff, who look favorably on unions, “Most, if not all, unions have monopoly power, which they can use to raise wages above competitive levels” (1984, p. ).
Unions’ power to fix high prices for their members’ labor rests on legal privileges and immunities that they get from government, both by statute and by nonenforcement of other laws. The purpose of these legal privileges is to restrict others from working for lower wages. As antiunion economist Ludwig von Mises wrote in 1922, “The long and short of trade union rights is in fact the right to proceed against the strikebreaker with primitive violence. ” Interestingly, those who are expected to enforce the laws evenhandedly, the police, are themselves heavily unionized.
In September 2015, the Workplace Action for a Growing Economy Act (WAGE Act) was introduced in Congress. If passed, significant protections not currently in place for workers would be in tact to allow them to organize and join a union without fear of employer intimidation. Although other legislation including the NLRA provides union protections, the NLRB has relatively limited enforcement ability to penalize employers for violating employees rights when it comes to workplace protections; the WAGE Act would amend the NLRA to add these protections.
This pending legislation would prove helpful in an era of smaller bargaining units with less power over coercive employer tactics. For more information on the proposed WAGE Act, please see the WAGE Act Fact Sheet. Union Local union “local” is a locally-based group of organized employees holding a charter from a national or international labor organization. A local may be confined to union members in a particular geographic area or company, or it may cover multiple contracts with various employers in the same business sector.
They are often numbered to distinguish each local from each other. (For example OPCMIA Local 21). Locals have their own governing bodies which represent the interests of the national or international union but are able to organize regular meetings and be responsible to their constituents. Within the local governing body is usually an executive board elected to look over the interests of the union, control finances including union dues, and manage interactions between workers and employers. These positions often include a business representative/business agent, secretary and/or treasurer.
Local branches may also affiliate with a local trades council or district council, an organization of local unions involved in all aspects of a particular trade or industry in a particular geographic area. An example of this is a local building trades organization comprised of many union locals. Industrial Union Collective bargaining association open to all workers in an industry, regardless of their specific skills, functions, and job responsibilities. An oil workers’ industrial union, for example, would include those involved in exploration, extraction, storage, refining, transport, and other areas associated with oil or petroleum industry.
Trade Union A trade union is an organization made up of members (a membership-based organization) and its membership must be made up mainly of workers. One of a trade union’s main aims is to protect and advance the interests of its members in the workplace. Most trade unions are independent of any employer. However, trade unions try to develop close working relationships with employers. This can sometimes take the form of a partnership agreement between the employer and the trade union which identifies their common interests and objectives.
Trade unions: • Negotiate agreements with employers on pay and conditions • Discuss major changes to the workplace such as large scale redundancy • Discuss members’ concerns with employers • Accompany members in disciplinary and grievance meetings • Provide members with legal and financial advice • Provide education facilities and certain consumer benefits such as discounted insurance Trade union recognition Employers which recognize a union will negotiate with it over members’ pay and conditions. Many recognition agreements are reached voluntarily, sometimes with the help of the Labour Relations Agency.
If agreement can’t be reached and the organisation employs more than 20 people, a union may apply for statutory recognition. To do so, it must first request recognition from the employer in writing. If this is unsuccessful, the union can apply to the Industrial Court for a decision. In considering the union’s application, the Court must assess many factors including the level of union membership and the presence of any other unions. Often, the Court will organise a ballot among the affected workforce to decide whether recognition should be awarded. Throughout the process, the emphasis is on reaching voluntary agreement.
If a union is formally recognized by an employer, it can negotiate with the employer over terms and conditions. This is known as ‘collective bargaining’. For collective bargaining to work, unions and employers need to agree on how the arrangement is to operate. They might, for example, make agreements providing for the deduction of union subscriptions from members’ wages; who is to represent workers in negotiations and how often meetings will take place. Both these agreements on procedure and agreements between employers and unions changing the terms applying to workers (like a pay increase for example) are called ‘collective agreements’.