"Unions" redirects here. For the defunct Australian rules football club, see Unions Football Club.
"Labour union" redirects here. For the Polish political party, see Labour Union (Poland)
. For the Canadian political party, see Union Labour.
A trade union, trades union (British English) or labor union (American English) is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members (rank and file members) and negotiates labour contracts (collective bargaining) with employers. This may include the negotiation of wages, work rules, complaint procedures, rules governing hiring, firing and promotion of workers, benefits, workplace safety and policies. The agreements negotiated by the union leaders are binding on the rank and file members and the employer and in some cases on other non-member workers.
Originating in Europe, trade unions became popular in many countries during the Industrial Revolution, when the lack of skill necessary to perform most jobs shifted employment bargaining power almost completely to the employers' side, causing many workers to be mistreated and underpaid. Trade union organizations may be composed of individual workers, professionals, past workers, or the unemployed. The most common, but by no means only, purpose of these organizations is "maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment".
Over the last three hundred years, trade unions have developed into a number of forms, influenced by differing political objectives. Activities of trade unions vary, but may include:
- Provision of benefits to members: Early trade unions, like Friendly Societies, often provided a range of benefits to insure members against unemployment, ill health, old age and funeral expenses. In many developed countries, these functions have been assumed by the state; however, the provision of professional training, legal advice and representation for members is still an important benefit of trade union membership.
- Collective bargaining: Where trade unions are able to operate openly and are recognized by employers, they may negotiate with employers over wages and working conditions.
- Industrial action: Trade unions may enforce strikes or resistance to lockouts in furtherance of particular goals.
- Political activity: Trade unions may promote legislation favourable to the interests of their members or workers as a whole. To this end they may pursue campaigns, undertake lobbying, or financially support individual candidates or parties (such as the Labour Party in Britain) for public office.
The origins of unions' existence can be traced from the 18th century, where the rapid expansion of industrial society drew women, children, rural workers, and immigrants to the work force in numbers and in new roles. This pool of unskilled and semi-skilled labour spontaneously organised in fits and starts throughout its beginnings, and would later be an important arena for the development of trade unions. Trade unions as such were endorsed by the Catholic Church towards the end of the 19th Century. Pope Leo XIII in his "Magna Carta"—Rerum Novarum—spoke against the atrocities workers faced and demanded that workers should be granted certain rights and safety regulations.
Origins and early history
Trade unions have sometimes been seen as successors to the guilds of medieval Europe, though the relationship between the two is disputed. Medieval guilds existed to protect and enhance their members' livelihoods through controlling the instructional capital of artisanship and the progression of members from apprentice to craftsman, journeyman, and eventually to master and grandmaster of their craft. A trade union might include workers from only one trade or craft, or might combine several or all the workers in one company or industry.
Trade unions and/or collective bargaining were outlawed from no later than the middle of the 14th century when the Ordinance of Labourers was enacted in the Kingdom of England. Union organizing would eventually be outlawed everywhere and remain so until the middle of the 19th century.
Since the publication of the History of Trade Unionism (1894) by Sidney and Beatrice Webb, the predominant historical view is that a trade union "is a continuous association of wage earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment." A modern definition by the Australian Bureau of Statistics states that a trade union is "an organization consisting predominantly of employees, the principal activities of which include the negotiation of rates of pay and conditions of employment for its members."
Yet historian R.A. Leeson, in United we Stand (1971), said:
Two conflicting views of the trade-union movement strove for ascendancy in the nineteenth century: one the defensive-restrictive guild-craft tradition passed down through journeymen's clubs and friendly societies, ... the other the aggressive-expansionist drive to unite all 'labouring men and women' for a 'different order of things'.
Recent historical research by Bob James in Craft, Trade or Mystery (2001) puts forward the view that trade unions are part of a broader movement of benefit societies, which includes medieval guilds, Freemasons, Oddfellows, friendly societies, and other fraternal organisations.
The 18th century economist Adam Smith noted the imbalance in the rights of workers in regards to owners (or "masters"). In The Wealth of Nations, Book I, chapter 8, Smith wrote:
We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combination of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate[.] When workers combine, masters ... never cease to call aloud for the assistance of the civil magistrate, and the rigorous execution of those laws which have been enacted with so much severity against the combination of servants, labourers, and journeymen.
As Smith noted, unions were illegal for many years in most countries, although Smith argued that it should remain illegal to fix wages or prices by employees or employers. There were severe penalties for attempting to organize unions, up to and including execution. Despite this, unions were formed and began to acquire political power, eventually resulting in a body of labour law that not only legalized organizing efforts, but codified the relationship between employers and those employees organized into unions. Even after the legitimization of trade unions there was opposition, as the case of the Tolpuddle Martyrs shows.
The right to join a trade union is mentioned in article 23, subsection 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which also states in article 20, subsection 2 that "No one may be compelled to belong to an association". Prohibiting a person from joining or forming a union, as well as forcing a person to do the same (e.g. "closed shops" or "union shops", see below), whether by a government or by a business, is generally considered a human rights abuse. Similar allegations can be levelled if an employer discriminates based on trade union membership. Attempts by an employer, often with the help of outside agencies, to prevent union membership amongst their staff is known as union busting.
In France, Germany, and other European countries, socialist parties and democrats played a prominent role in forming and building up trade unions, especially from the 1870s onwards. This stood in contrast to the British experience, where moderate New Model Unions dominated the union movement from the mid-19th century and where trade unionism was stronger than the political labour movement until the formation and growth of the Labour Party in the early years of the 20th century.
Government opposition to Trade unionism in the United Kingdom was a major factor in economic crises during the 1960s and in particular the 1970s, culminating some would argue in the Winter of Discontent of late 1978 and early 1979, when a significant percentage of the nation's public sector workers went on strike. By this stage, some 12,000,000 workers in the United Kingdom were trade union members. However, the election of the Conservative Party led by Margaret Thatcher at the general election in May 1979, at the expense of Labour's James Callaghan, saw substantial trade union reform which saw the level of strikes fall, but also the level of trade union membership fall. By the end of the 1980s, membership had fallen to just over 6,000,000—little more than half the level of a decade earlier—and it also counted against the Labour Party's hopes of regaining power, as its relationship with the trade unions had traditionally been seen as a strength but after the Winter of Discontent it was seen as a liability. Manufacturing, the main source of union strength in the United Kingdom, had shrunk by half during the early 1980s recession pushing unemployment from 1,500,000 to more than 3,000,000.
Earlier in the 1970s, Conservative prime minister Edward Heath (elected in 1970) had attempted to reduce trade union powers due to the rising level of strikes across the country. However, he backed down with his stance against the unions following a backlash by the militant miners' union, which saw many of his own MPs turn against him. The strikes continued, and Heath responded by calling a snap election in February 1974. The election resulted in a hung parliament with the Tories having the most votes but Labour having slightly more seats, and failed attempts by Heath to form a coalition with the Liberals led to the resignation of his government and the return of Harold Wilson as prime minister of a minority Labour government, which gained a three-seat majority at a second election later in the year.
Unions in the United States
Main article: Labour unions in the United States
19th Century American Unionism
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In the early 19th century, many men from large cities put together the organization which we now call the Trade Union Movement. Individuals who were members of unions at this time were skilled, experienced, and knew how to get the job done. Their main reasoning for starting this movement was to put on strikes. However, they did not have enough men to fulfill their needs and the unions which began this trendy movement collapsed quickly. The Mechanics’ Union Trade Association was the next approach to bring workers together. In 1827, this union was the first U.S. labor organization which brought together workers of divergent occupations. This was "the first city-wide federation of American workers, which recognized that all labor, regardless of trades, had common problems that could be solved only by united efforts as a class." This organization took off when carpentry workers from Philadelphia went on strike to protest their pay wages and working hours. This union strike was only a premonition of what was to come in the future.
According to history.com:
||Besides acting to raise wages and improve working conditions, the federations espoused certain social reforms, such as the institution of free public education, the abolition of imprisonment for debt, and the adoption of universal manhood suffrage. Perhaps the most important effect of these early unions was their introduction of political action.
Workers realized what unionism was all about through the configuration of mechanics association and many people followed in their footsteps. The strike gave others hope that they could get their concerns out by word of mouth. Before this time many people did not speak about their concerns because of the lack of bodies. However, with more people comes more confidence. Strikes were a new way of speaking your mind and getting things accomplished.
The next established union which made an impact on the trade movement was the Grand National Consolidated Trade Union. This union was founded in 1834 as the first domestic association. However, this union was short lived due to the panic of 1837. "[Andrew] Jackson thought the Bank of the United States hurt ordinary citizens by exercising too much control over credit and economic opportunity, and he succeeded in shutting it down. But the state banks' reckless credit policies led to massive speculation in Western lands. By 1837, after Van Buren had become president, banks were clearly in trouble. Some began to close, businesses began to fail, and thousands of people lost their land."  This collapse of financial support and businesses left workers unemployed. Many of these workers, who became affected by the 1837 disaster, were members of a union. It was very hard for them to stay together in an economic hardship and the trade union movement came to a bump in the road. But the economy was restored by the early 1840s and trade unions started doing better. National labor unions were forming, different than ones in the past, consisting now of members of the same occupation.
"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."
The work force was drastically impacted by the Civil War and the economy was thriving. Many workers gained employment because of this economic boom and unions increased greatly. "More than 30 national craft unions were established during the 1860s and early '70s." One of the significant national craft unions to be formed during this time was the National Labour Union (NLU). It was created in 1866 and included many types of workers. Although relatively short-lived, the NLU paved the way for future American unions. Following the decline of the NLU, the Knights of Labour became the leading countrywide union in the 1860s. This union did not include Chinese, and partially included black people and women.
Knights of Labour
Main article: Knights of Labour
The Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labour (KOL) was founded in Philadelphia in 1869 by Uriah Stephens and six other men. The union was formed for the purpose of organizing the flyers, educating and directing the power of the industrial masses, according to their Constitution of 1878. The Knights gathered people to join the Order who believed in creating "the greatest good to the greatest amount of people". The Knights took their set goals very seriously. Some of which consisted of "productive work, civic responsibility, education, a wholesome family life, temperance, and self-improvement."
The Knights of Labour worked as a secret fraternal society until 1881. The union grew slowly until the economic depression of the 1870s, when large numbers of workers joined the organisation. The Knights only permitted certain groups of individuals into their Order which promoted social division amongst the people around them. Bankers, speculators, lawyers, liquor dealers, gamblers, and teachers were all excluded from the union. These workers were known as the "non-producers" because their jobs did not entail physical labour. Factory workers and business men were known as the "producers" because their job constructed a physical product. The working force producers were welcomed into the Order. Women were also welcome to join the Knights, as well as black workers by the year 1883. However, Asians were excluded. In November 1885, the Knights of a Washington city pushed to get rid of their Asian population. The knights were strongly for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 because it greatly helped them deteriorate the Asian community. "The Act required the few non-labourers who sought entry to obtain certification from the Chinese government that they were qualified to immigrate. But this group found it increasingly difficult to prove that they were not labourers because the 1882 act defined excludables as ‘skilled and unskilled labourers and Chinese employed in mining.’ Thus very few Chinese could enter the country under the 1882 law." 
The act also stated that if an Asian left the country, they needed a certificate to re-enter.
Although Asians were not welcomed in the union, black workers who joined the union brought a large number of blacks into the white labour movement. In 1886, the Union exceeded 700,000 members, 60,000 of them black. The Knights were told that they "broke the walls of prejudice"; the "color line had been broken and black and white were found working in the same cause.
American Federation of Labor
The American Federation of Labour (AFL),founded by Samuel Gompers, was established due to the vexation of many Knights who parted from the KOL. Many Knights joined the AFL because they set themselves apart from the KOL. The KOL "tried to teach the American wage-earner that he was a wage-earner first and a bricklayer, carpenter, miner [...] after. This meant that the Order was teaching something that was not so in the hope that sometime it would be.’ But the AFL affiliates organised carpenters as carpenters, bricklayers as bricklayers, and so forth, teaching them all to place their own craft interests before those of other workers."
The AFL also differed from the KOL because it only allowed associations to be formed from workers and workers were the only people permitted to join them. Unlike the AFL, the knights also allowed small businesses to join. A small business is "An independently owned and operated business that is not dominant in its field of operation and conforms to standards set by the Small Business Administration or by state law regarding number of employees and yearly income called also small business concern."
Since the knights allowed an array of members into their association, they ended up getting rid of many because they did not fit the title. However, the AFL was right behind them picking up their pieces. This was another way in which the AFL helped to destroy the Knights. Once an associate was no longer a knight, and they fit the description of an AFL member, they hunted them down and offered them a spot. Many times spots were offered to men who were still Knights. This allowed the AFL to grow very strong with a diverse set of members.
The diversity in the AFL faltered when many of the black members were excluded. Gompers only wanted skilled workers representing his union and many black people were not considered skilled. The AFL claimed to not exclude the black members because of their race but because they were not qualified for the part. "So as long as wages rose, and they did, hours fell, and they did, security increased, and it appeared to, the AFL could grow fat while neglecting millions of labourers doomed to lives of misery and want." Even black workers considered skilled enough to fit the part were generally excluded from the Union. The AFL conducted literacy tests which had the effect of excluding immigrants and blacks. Regardless of black members being excluded, the AFL was the most prevalent union federation in America before the mid 1940s. The union was composed of over 10 million members before it combined with the Congress of Industrial Organisation (CIO).
Congress of Industrial Organisations
Main article: Congress of Industrial Organisations
The CIO was put forth by John L. Lewis when troubles with the AFL persisted, after the death of Gompers in 1924. Many members of the union requested that they switch the rules which were laid out by Gompers. They wanted to support inexperienced workmen rather than only focusing on experienced workers of one occupation. John L. Lewis was the first member of the AFL to act upon this issue in 1935. He was the founder of the Committee for the Industrial Organisation which was an original union branched from the AFL. The Committee for the Industrial Organisation transformed into the Congress of Industrial Organisation. "The Congress of Industrial Organisations (CIO) encompassed the largest sustained surge of worker organisation in American history." In the 1930s, the CIO grabbed many of their member’s attention through victorious strikes. In the 1935, employees of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company formed their own union called the United Rubber Workers. The Rubber Workers went on strike in 1936 to protest an increase in product with lower pay wages. "There were forty-eight strikes in 1936 in which the strikers remained at their jobs for at least one day; in twenty-two of these work stoppages, involving 34,565 workers, the strikers stayed inside the plants for more than twenty-four hours." This tactic was called a "sit-down" strike which entailed workers to stop doing their job and sit in their place of employment. During these strikes, business owners were unable to bring in new workers to replace the ones who were on strike because they were still in their seats at the factory. This was unlike any strikes in the past. Before this time, workers showed their fury by leaving their factory and standing in picket lines. Walter Reuther was in control of the union at this time and moved forward to higher roles during 1955.
On May 5, 1955, union delegates gathered in NY on behalf of 16 million workers, to witness and support the merger of The American Federation of Labor and The Congress of Industrial Organization. The merger is a result of 20 years of effort put forth by both the AFL and CIO presidents, George Meany and Walter Reuther. The gathered delegates applauded loudly when the time came to nominate officers for the new AFL-CIO. Reuther who was named one of the 37 vice presidents of the union, nominated Meany for President. After Meany’s retirement in 1979, Lane Kirkland took over his position. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was elected in 1952, was the first to publicly address and congratulate the new union, which was now the largest in the world.
In Eisenhower’s telephone broadcast to the United States he acknowledged the impact union members had made to better the nation and one of these impacts was "the development of the American philosophy of labour." Eisenhower states three principles which he feels apply to the philosophy of labour. The first principles states that: "the ultimate values of mankind are spiritual; these values include liberty, human dignity, opportunity and equal rights and justice." Eisenhower was stating that every individual deserves a job with decent compensation, practical hours, and good working conditions that leave them feeling fulfilled. His second principle speaks of the economic interest of the employer and employee being a mutual prosperity. The employers and employees must work together in order for there to be the greatest amount of wealth for all. Workers have a right to strike when they feel their boundaries are being crossed and the best way for the employer to fix the employees unhappiness is to come to a mutual agreement. His last principle which he preached stated: "labour relations will be managed best when worked out in honest negotiation between employers and unions, without Government’s unwarranted interference." Eisenhower was saying that when both parties cooperate and act in mature fashion, it will be easier to work out situations and a better outcome will result because of it. Once he was done delivering the speech, everyone across the U.S. knew of the new AFL-CIO whose "mission [was] to bring social and economic justice to our nation by enabling working people to have a voice on the job, in government, in a changing global economy and in their communities."
This new alliance is made up of 56 nationwide and intercontinental labour unions. The unions which are a part of this alliance are composed of 2.5 million working Americans and 8.5 million other affiliated members. These members do not fall under one job title but they are very diversely spread out among the working area. Their jobs go from doctors to truck drivers and painters to bankers. The mission of these workers and the AFL-CIO "is to improve the lives of working families—to bring economic justice to the workplace and social justice to our nation. To accomplish this mission we will build and change the American labour movement." The AFL-CIO also has many goals which coincide with their mission:
"We will build a broad movement of American workers by organizing workers into unions. We will build a strong political voice for workers in our nation. We will change our unions to provide a new voice to workers in a changing economy. We will change our labour movement by creating a new voice for workers in our communities."
The association was willing to go to any extent to help out their employers which is why the membership was so high. Members started to slowly disappear after 25 successful years of a steady membership. Starting out with 16 million members in 1955 and dropping down to 13 million by 1984 is a significant loss. This loss of members is in large part due to the 1957 removal of the Teamsters’ Union who were long time members of the AFL. The Teamsters’ were involved in organized crime and manipulating employers with strong force. The Teamsters’ philosophy was to
"Let each member do his duty as he sees fit. Let each put his shoulder to the wheel and work together to bring about better results. Let no member sow seeds of discord within our ranks, and let our enemies see that the Teamsters of this country are determined to get their just rewards and to make their organization as it should be—one of the largest and strongest trade unions in the country now and beyond."
This philosophy did not work well for Teamster presidents Beck, Hoffa, and Williams who were all accused of criminal acts and sent to prison. In 1987 the AFL-CIO membership grew to 14 million members when the Teamsters Union was restored to the association.
The AFL-CIO also lost many members due to financial struggles in the United States. During the late 20th century the U.S. dollar began to oscillate due to rivalry with foreign countries and their currencies. This affects global trafficking and results in job loss for American citizens. The issues between the United States and foreign countries cannot be resolved by Eisenhower’s third principle, which entailed honest negotiations. Consequently, the association has been dynamically supportive in administration policies which deal with global trafficking, the production of goods, and many other issues, which are optimistic policies that will add to an established financial system.
The AFL-CIO is now governed by a gathering of delegates who are present on behalf of association members who meet every four years. The delegates who are the spokespeople of the federation members are chosen by union members. While the delegates vote for new representatives every four years, they also lay down the goals and policies for the union. The most recent representatives for the organization along with 45 vice presidents are President John J. Sweeny, Secretary-treasurer Richard Trumka, and executive vice president Arlene Holt Baker
In the United States there are a total of 15.4 million union members, "11 million of whom belong to unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO." This number has grown rapidly since the beginning of the union movement because today, all individuals with different occupations are welcomed to join unions. "Today's unions include manufacturing and construction workers, teachers, technicians and doctors—and every type of worker in between. No matter what you do for a living, there's a union that has members who do the same thing." Educating union members about issues that shape lives of functioning families on a daily basis is one of the AFL-CIO’s policies. They give them confidence to have their voices heard for political purposes. They also prioritize in
"creating family-supporting jobs by investing tax dollars in schools, roads, bridges and airports; improving the lives of workers through education, job training and raising the minimum wage; keeping good jobs at home by reforming trade rules, reindustrializing the U.S. economy and redoubling efforts at worker protections in the global economy; strengthening Social Security and private pensions; making high-quality, affordable health care available to everyone; and holding corporations more accountable for their actions."
The AFL-CIO is very supportive of political issues and they show their concern
by giving out information about existing political issues to families. This information is spread by volunteers and activists and includes where all the candidates stand on the issues.
Before the 1990s, unions in Mexico had been historically part of a state institutional system. Between the end of the Mexican revolution in 1940, till the 1980s worldwide spread of neo-liberalism through the Washington Consensus, the Mexican unions did not operate independently, but instead as part of a state institutional system, largely controlled by the ruling party.
During these 40 years, the primary aim of the labour unions was not to benefit the workers, but to carry out the state's economic policy under their cosy relationship with the ruling party. This economic policy, which peaked in the 1950-60s with the so called Mexican Miracle, saw rising incomes and rising standards of living. Only a minor part went to the workers, while the primary beneficiaries had been the wealthy.
In the 1980s, Mexico began to follow the Washington Consensus, and sell off state industries (railroad, telecommunication) to private industries. The new owners had an antagonist attitude towards unions, and the unions, accustomed to the comfortable relationship with the state, were not prepared to fight back. A movement of new unions began to emerge with a more independent model, while the old institutionalised unions had become very corrupt, violent and gangster led. From the 1990s, the new model of independent unions prevailed, and a number of them were represented by the National Union of Workers.
Supporters of Unions, such as the ACTU or Australian Labor Party, often credit trade unions with leading the labour movement in the early 20th century, which generally sought to end child labour practices, improve worker safety, increase wages for both union workers and non union workers, raise the entire society's standard of living, reduce the hours in a work week, provide public education for children, and bring other benefits to working class families.
Structure and politics
- Union structures, politics, and legal status vary greatly from country to country. For specific country details see List of trade unions.
A rally of the trade union UNISON
during a strike on 2006-03-28.
Unions may organize a particular section of skilled workers (craft unionism), a cross-section of workers from various trades (general unionism), or attempt to organize all workers within a particular industry (industrial unionism). These unions are often divided into "locals", and united in national federations. These federations themselves will affiliate with Internationals, such as the International Trade Union Confederation.
A union may acquire the status of a "juristic person" (an artificial legal entity), with a mandate to negotiate with employers for the workers it represents. In such cases, unions have certain legal rights, most importantly the right to engage in collective bargaining with the employer (or employers) over wages, working hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. The inability of the parties to reach an agreement may lead to industrial action, culminating in either strike action or management lockout, or binding arbitration. In extreme cases, violent or illegal activities may develop around these events.
In other circumstances, unions may not have the legal right to represent workers, or the right may be in question. This lack of status can range from non-recognition of a union to political or criminal prosecution of union activists and members, with many cases of violence and deaths having been recorded both historically and contemporarily.
Unions may also engage in broader political or social struggle. Social Unionism encompasses many unions that use their organizational strength to advocate for social policies and legislation favourable to their members or to workers in general. As well, unions in some countries are closely aligned with political parties.
Unions are also delineated by the service model and the organizing model. The service model union focuses more on maintaining worker rights, providing services, and resolving disputes. Alternately, the organizing model typically involves full-time union organizers, who work by building up confidence, strong networks, and leaders within the workforce; and confrontational campaigns involving large numbers of union members. Many unions are a blend of these two philosophies, and the definitions of the models themselves are still debated.
Although their political structure and autonomy varies widely, union leaderships are usually formed through democratic elections.
Some research, such as that conducted by the ACIRRT, argues that unionized workers enjoy better conditions and wages than those who are not unionized.
In Britain, the perceived left-leaning nature of trade unions has resulted in the formation of a reactionary right-wing trade union called Solidarity which is supported by the far-right BNP.
Companies that employ workers with a union generally operate on one of several models:
- A closed shop (US) or a "pre-entry closed shop" (UK) employs only people who are already union members. The compulsory hiring hall is an example of a closed shop—in this case the employer must recruit directly from the union, as well as the employee working strictly for unionized employers.
- A union shop (US) or a "post-entry closed shop" (UK) employs non-union workers as well, but sets a time limit within which new employees must join a union.
- An agency shop requires non-union workers to pay a fee to the union for its services in negotiating their contract. This is sometimes called the Rand formula. In certain situations involving state public employees in the United States, such as California, "fair share laws" make it easy to require these sorts of payments.
- An open shop does not require union membership in employing or keeping workers. Where a union is active, workers who do not contribute to a union still benefit from the collective bargaining process. In the United States, state level right-to-work laws mandate the open shop in some states.
Diversity of international unions
Union law varies from country to country, as does the function of unions. For example, in Germany only open shops are legal; that is, all discrimination based on union membership is forbidden. This affects the function and services of the union. In addition, German unions have played a greater role in management decisions through participation in corporate boards and co-determination than have unions in the United States.
In Britain, a series of laws introduced during the 1980s by Margaret Thatcher's government restricted closed and union shops. All agreements requiring a worker to join a union are now illegal. In the United States, the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 outlawed the closed shop, and the union shop was deemed illegal by the Supreme Court.
In addition, unions' relations with political parties vary. In many countries unions are tightly bonded, or even share leadership, with a political party intended to represent the interests of working people. Typically this is a left-wing, socialist, or social democratic party, but many exceptions exist. In the United States, by contrast, although it is historically aligned with the Democratic Party, the union movement is by no means monolithic on that point; this is especially true among the individual "rank and file" members. For example, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has supported Republican Party candidates on a number of occasions and the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) endorsed Ronald Reagan in 1980. In Britain the union movement's relationship with the Labour Party frayed as party leadership embarked on privatisation plans at odds with what unions see as the worker's interests. However, it has strengthened once more after the Labour party's election of Ed Milliband who beat his brother David Milliband, to become leader of the party after Ed secured the trade unions votes. On top of this in the past there as been a group known as the Conservative Trade Unionists or CTU. A group formed of people who sympathized with right wing Tory policy but were Trade Unionists.
In Western Europe, professional associations often carry out the functions of a trade union. In these cases, they may be negotiating for white-collar workers, such as physicians, engineers, or teachers. Typically such trade unions refrain from politics or pursue a more ordoliberal politics than their blue-collar counterparts .
In Germany the relation between individual employees and employers is considered to be asymmetrical. In consequence, many working conditions are not negotiable due to a strong legal protection of individuals. However, the German flavour or works legislation has as its main objective to create a balance of power between employees organized in unions and employers organized in employers associations. This allows much wider legal boundaries for collective bargaining, compared to the narrow boundaries for individual negotiations. As a condition to obtain the legal status of a trade union, employee associations need to prove that their leverage is strong enough to serve as a counterforce in negotiations with employers. If such an employees association is competing against another union, its leverage may be questioned by unions and then evaluated in a court trial. In Germany only very few professional associations obtained the right to negotiate salaries and working conditions for their members, notably the medical doctors association Marburger Bund and the pilots association Vereinigung Cockpit. The engineers association Verein Deutscher Ingenieure does not strive to act as a union, as it also represents the interests of engineering businesses.
Finally, the structure of employment laws affects unions' roles and how they carry out their business. In many western European countries wages and benefits are largely set by governmental action. The United States takes a more laissez-faire approach, setting some minimum standards but leaving most workers' wages and benefits to collective bargaining and market forces. Historically, the Republic of Korea has regulated collective bargaining by requiring employers to participate but collective bargaining has been legal only if held in sessions before the lunar new year.
Many union members were illegally fired during the 1980s in the United States due to government opposition to unions.
Trade unions have been accused of benefiting insider workers, those having secure jobs, at the cost of outsider workers, consumers of the goods or services produced, and the shareholders of the unionized business.
In the United States, the outsourcing of labour to Asia, Latin America, and Africa has been partially driven by increasing costs of union partnership, which gives other countries a comparative advantage in labour, making it more efficient to perform labour-intensive work there. Milton Friedman, Nobel economist and advocate of laissez-faire capitalism, sought to show that unionization produces higher wages (for the union members) at the expense of fewer jobs, and that, if some industries are unionized while others are not, wages will tend to decline in non-unionized industries.
Trade unions have been said to have ineffective policies on racism and sexism, such that a union is justified in not supporting a member taking action against another member. This was demonstrated by the 1987 judgment in the Weaver v NATFHE case in the UK, in which a black Muslim woman brought a complaint of workplace racist harassment against a co-trade unionist. The court found that the union, had it offered assistance to the plaintiff, would be in violation of its duty to protect the tenure of the accused member, and this judgment remains the precedent for cases in which union members who make complaints to the employer of racist or sexist harassment against member(s) of the same union cannot obtain union advice or assistance; this applies irrespective of the merit of the complaint.
The largest trade union in the world is the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation, which today has approximately 309 affiliated organizations in 156 countries and territories, with a combined membership of 166 million. Other global trade union organizations include the World Federation of Trade Unions.
National and regional trade unions organizing in specific industry sectors or occupational groups also form global union federations, such as Union Network International, the International Federation of Journalists or the International Arts and Entertainment Alliance.
Several sources of current news exist about the trade union movement in the world. These include LabourStart and the official website of the international trade union movement Global Unions.
Another source of union news is the Workers Independent News, a news organization providing radio articles to independent and syndicated radio shows.
Labor Notes is the largest circulation cross-union publication remaining in the United States. It reports news and analysis about union activity or problems facing the labour movement.
- The 2000 film Bread and Roses by British director Ken Loach depicted the struggle of cleaners in Los Angeles to fight for better pay, and working conditions, and the right to join a union.
- Hoffa—A Danny DeVito film (1992): The man who was willing to pay the price for power. "Jack Nicholson gives a gigantic powerhouse performance"—The New York Times
- The 1985 documentary film Final Offer by Sturla Gunnarsson and Robert Collision shows the 1984 union contract negotiations with General Motors.
- The 1979 film Norma Rae, directed by Martin Ritt, is based on the true story of Crystal Lee Jordan's successful attempt to unionize her textile factory.
- Other documentaries: Made in L.A. (2007); American Standoff (2002); The Fight in the Fields (1997); With Babies and Banners: Story of the Women's Emergency Brigade (1979); Harlan County USA (1976); The Inheritance (1964)
- Other dramatizations: 10,000 Black Men Named George (2002); Matewan (1987); American Playhouse—"The Killing Floor" (1985); Salt of the Earth (1954); The Grapes of Wrath (1940); Black Fury (1935)
- Types of unions
- Union federation
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- ^ a b c Dan La Botz US supported economics spurred Mexican emigration, pt.1, interview at The Real News, May 1, 2010
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- ^ ICFTU press release—regarding Cambodia.
- ^ Amnesty International report 23 September 2005—fear for safety of SINALTRAINAL member José Onofre Esquivel Luna
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- ^ Friedman, Milton (2007). Price theory ([New ed.], 3rd printing ed.). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. ISBN 9780202309699. http://books.google.com/books?id=EhcI5-D9wREC&pg=PA164.
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- The Government of British Trade Unions: A study of Apathy and the Democratic Process in the Transport and General Worker Union by Joseph Goldstein
- The Early English Trade Unions: Documents from Home Office Papers in the Public Record Office by A. Aspinall
- Magnificent Journey: The Rise of the Trade Unions, by Francis Williams
- Trade Unions by Allan Flanders
- Trade Union Government and Administration in Great Britain by B C Roberts
- Union Power: The Growth and Challenge in Perspective by Claud Cockburn
- Directory of Employer's Associations, Trade Unions, Joint Organisations—No author and produced in paperback
- The History of the TUC (Trades Union Congress) 1868–1968: A pictorial Survey of a Social Revolution—Illustrated with Contemporary Prints, Documents and Photographs, edited by Lionel Birch
- Clarke, T.; Clements, L. (1978). Trade Unions under Capitalism. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press. ISBN 0-391-00728-9.
- Panitch, Leo & Swartz, Donald (2003). From consent to coercion: The assault on trade union freedoms, third edition. Ontario: Garamound Press.
- Phil Dine (2007). State of the Unions: How Labor Can Strengthen the Middle Class, Improve Our Economy, and Regain Political Influence, McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 978-0-07-148844-0
- ^ First published by George Allen and Unwin Ltd (London) in 1952, and subject of reprints—Foreword by Arthur Deakin
- ^ Published by Batchworth Press (London) in 1949
- ^ First published by Odhams Press (London) in 1954
- ^ First published by Hutchinson (London) in 1952 and reprinted several times
- ^ First published by The School of Economics/Bell and Sons (London) in 1956 and reprinted
- ^ First published by William Kimber in 1976 (London) ISBN 0718301137
- ^ published by HMSO (Her Majesty's Stationery Office) on 1986 ISBN 113612508
- ^ Published in large paperback by Hamlyn/General Council of Trade Union Congress in 1968 with a foreword by George Woodcock
- United States