Ever since the dawn of time it has been the tendency of workers to try and better their conditions, the slaves in Egypt wanted to change the way they were treated, as did the slaves in the Americas. It has also been the tendency of employers to try and get more for less. They want the most work and productivity from employees with the least amount of pay on their behalf. It is now the trend for workers in the auto industry to form unions to help them in their fight for better working conditions.
Unions date back to the days of the American Revolution when journeymen blacksmiths formed pacts to help each other receive better pay on jobs they performed and prevent underbidding on jobs. Since those days many unions have been formed, and they have helped a great many people. The best known and most influential of which is the United Auto Workers, or UAW.
Autoworkers had it rough before the days of the unions. They worked oppressive schedules, which usually ran from January through September and maybe even October. During those months, they would work long hours with very little reward. It was not uncommon for them to clock up to 16 hours a day. Occasionally they would come to work and get sent home with no pay. Their foremen ran their lives. If a foreman wanted his car washed on a Sunday, workers would have to do it. Whatever the foremen said was law, no matter how unfair or unjust it was. If workers didn't do what a foreman said, they could face unemployment.
During the working months of January through September workers would bust their backs to perform their jobs, most of them not being able to perform their duties past the age of 35. During the months of October through December workers would be let go for the retooling period, so they were unemployed at that time. They would face these harsh winter months with no unemployment pay or compensation to help through Christmas.
Then come January when the factories were coming back on-line, workers had no way of knowing if they were still going to have a job. Foremen had complete control over who was being called back to work, if workers were over 35 they were not called back. Most of the workers would bribe foremen so they would have a job in January.
Child labor was also a big practice back in those days. Children would work long hours, up to 16 hours a day. They would get paid as little as half a penny for every hour they worked. Most children were employed by the age of 5, and it was likely that they would not live past 25.
Unions have changed a lot of things for workers in America today. With the help of unions and the government (through legislative acts passed by union lobbyists) we now have forty-hour weeks, minimum wage, and overtime pay. People have benefits like health insurance, profit sharing, retirement and pension plans, and paid vacation and holidays. We have unemployment pay for those who get let go in times of recession and corporate downsizing. Minors now have laws stating exactly what type of work they can do, people must now be at least 18 to perform dangerous jobs, minors can only work and go to school a maximum of 48 hours a week. I think we can all thank the unions for what they have done for us.
Before unions, employers had it made. They could pay as little as they could get people to work for, which reduced their overhead costs. Once they paid for materials, most of what they made went straight into their pocketbooks. With the help of unions and actions such as striking, workers no have a voice in what is said and done in their place of employment. It is no wonder that the average American worker wants to be a part of a union, with the benefits involved, who wouldn't.
Word Count: 672