A labor union is as defined in the dictionary, an organization of wage earners formed for the purpose of serving the members' interests with respect to wages and working condition. There are people favor union’s formation and people against the formation of labor unions. Even though there are many difficulties in organizing labor union, the union was successful in late 1800s. Today there are about 16 million workers in the U.S. that belong to a labor union. The purpose of the union is to helps worker negotiate employment contract through collective bargaining and solve labor dispute uses method that are legal and illegal.
There are several reasons labor unions was formed in the United States. First, the worker form the union to fight the employer’s practice division of labor and unfair hiring that which employer divided skilled worker into teams, hire them to do part of the job then hire women and children at extreme low wages to do other parts. Second, if worker was injured on the job there was no compensation and the employee was deemed to be fault. Third, the working condition was poor and unsafe. Fourth, the workers receive low pay and long working hour with lack of benefit. Fourth, the workers believe there is strength in number, it will help them fulfill their demands.
On the other hand, there are many difficulties in organizing labor union in America. First, the common law tradition brought to the United States from England against the formation of labor union. Second, there are no strong leaders, the public and some of the culture in the south country against unionism. Third, Immigrant, women, black and child labor is willing to work for low wages. Fourth, different group of worker discriminate each other because of their background or racial difference. Fifth, the company use blacklist and lockout to prevent worker to be organize. Sixth, the traditional protestant viewed establishment of union as product of immigrant, seventh, the court disfavor growth of union by following the common law of England.
Labor unions have been around for a long time. The earlier unions were called craft unions, consisting of members who worked in the same trade such as carpenters and printers. Some local craft unions were able to form nationwide associations. However, because of the poor economic conditions in the country, nationwide union did not flourish and many unions went out of existence until late 1800s the unions began to revive.
One of the earliest and most successful unions, the Knights of Labor has grown since evolved. The Knights of Labor was an industrial union open to worker from almost all trades and types of work. It was a loosely structured organization; however, at its peak it had nearly 70,000 members. Since then unions are organized into groups like semi-skilled, and unskilled, craft and industrial. Local unions have evolved in different parts of the country into national unions, like postal and medical unions; however, workers in local unions are more active. Although workers are more active in their local union, they are likely to have greater political and economic power because of their influence on the political leader.
The way unions negotiate for an employment contract is by collective bargaining. Collective bargaining is negotiation between the representatives of organized workers and their employer or employers to determine wages, hours, rules, and working conditions. Collective bargaining agent is elected in a plant and factory to represent the particular group of worker. When in collective bargaining, the unions represent its members in negotiations rather than have each worker negotiate individually with an employer.
In order for the collective bargaining process can start a union shop must be organized. A union shop is a business or industrial establishment whose employees are required to be union members or to agree to join the union within a specified time after being hired. Once a union shop is formed the union will look to negotiate a labor contract, which is a written agreement between the employer and the union representing employees. The labor contract sets the conditions of employment.
The major issues that affect negotiations, is the basis of a union s formation. Depending on the workers position and number of years the worker has been on the job. It will help set the wages in the contracts being made. The negotiation include non-wage factor known as fringe benefits. The most common fringe benefits are sick days paid, holidays, and vacation days. It also includes health and life insurance, savings plans, retirement as well as profit sharing and stock ownership plans. The contract should clearly define the work responsibilities and reasonable working hours. Employees want to make sure that labor contracts specify everything that is expected of them as well as everything that should be coming to them like their hours and wages.
Although many union contracts are worked out through collective bargaining, there are times when this process fails to bring agreement between the union and management. In looking to achieve the union’s goals, labor unions may use a variety of tactics. For example: striking, picketing, boycotting, slowdown, and in some cases illegal methods. A strike is when workers stop working for the purpose of gaining concessions from management. Strike is labor’s most powerful weapon because of the financial loss imposed upon the employer. The downfall to a strike is that is that it also costs participating workers a loss in income. Picketing is similar to a strike; it takes place when workers march outside a business carrying signs. The main objective of picketing is to discourage workers from entering the workplace. A union boycott is a refusal to buy services or goods from a business whose workers are on strike. Unions tell their members to tell their friends and family to boycott the products of the company. Unions also try to get the general public involved and support their cause. When there is a boycott on a certain brand name the boycott is called a “primary boycott”. If there is a boycott on a store because they sell a certain brand name this is called a “secondary boycott”. A slowdown is when workers, on purpose, decrease their output in order to force concessions from their employer. Because the workers are not on strike workers can still collect their pay.
Some Unions have resorted to tactics that are illegal. There are three main tactics the unions use. The first one is secondary boycott, which is “a work stoppage in order to force an employer to stop using the product of another company presently involved in a labor dispute” (Wechman 68). The second is strong-arm methods were unions hire thugs to force management into accepting the union demands. The third method is called jurisdictional strike is one caused by dispute between two unions over which one can represent certain group of workers.
Management sometime will put pressure on unions when there is a breakdown in labor-management negotiations. Some important management tactics are lockouts, injunctions, and strikebreakers. Lockout happens when management shuts down a workplace in hope of bringing the workers to the companies’ terms. Sometimes a court will issue an injunction to halt a strike. Injunctions are very uncommon. Strikebreakers occur when management hire new people to replace the people that are on strike. Strikebreaking, in my opinion is the best way to handle a strike. If people don’t want to work and there are replacement worker available the company should do so.
There are peaceful ways decisions can be solved without strikes or lockouts. For example: fact-finding, mediation, and arbitration. When there are labor disputes, the government might intervene and assign a “fact-finding board”. This board investigates the problem and suggests a solution. In mediation a third party is brought in to analyze the situation and offers a solution. In the arbitration method of settling labor problems a third party is brought in and the management and Union must abide by the solution as set by the third party.
Summarized Three Side Arguments of Labor Union
In general labor unions, like anything else, have both positive and negative aspects. The Conservatives seem to focus on the negative, while the Liberals are focusing on the positive, and the Radicals are assessing both sides simultaneously.
The Conservatives believe that labor unions are bad. They feel that labor unions have too much power for their size. Labor unions use this power as blackmail against companies, by becoming labor monopolies. They ask too much of companies, causing either the company to shut down, or to supply more money for the employees. Conservatives also believe that labor unions lead to recession because they cause wages to go up, and that causes prices to go up, which leads to lower outputs.
The Liberals believe that labor unions are good. They believe that labor unions are necessary for fair wages. Before labor unions the workers did not have the upper hand. Unions create higher wages, better working conditions, and also more benefits, like compensation, and security. Liberals believe that unions are necessary to achieve a balance between workers and firms, and to regulate wages and the work environment, and also to protect the workers. The liberals feel that without the labor unions workers would be working hard for little money in horrible working conditions.
Finally the radicals believe that unions have caused a lot of good overall, but that they need to speak politically for all workers, not just their own union workers. The labor unions have divided the work force into two parts, union and non-union. Radicals see the union as offering job security, higher wages, and benefits, lacking a political view, organizing labor supply, keeping wages down in recession periods so that profit does not drop, supporting the capitalist system, and acting as an organizer to discipline workers and firms. From an elitist point of view the unions are seen as the enemy increasing the gap between workers and firms. But from an essential point of view they are seen as good because they bring the workers together.