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Labor unions can be regarded as one of the most controversial topics all over the world, specifically in the United States. Labor unions have many passionate supporters such as Democrats. To their supporters, unions safeguard employees from exploitation and provide them with a chance to receive a better standard of living. Nevertheless, labor unions also have equally furious critics such as Republicans who state that unions have damaged the competitiveness of American firms, and that they do not meet actual needs of modern workers. In such respect, the particular issue is of crucial importance to be studied more thoroughly. Labor unions were established in the eighteenth century in the times of the European industrial revolution. The great increase in number of new workers that occurred in that time needed many workplaces, as well as representation. In the history of the United States, labor unions had a critical role for independence because the ideas they presented became a part of American culture. Therefore, the purpose of current research paper is to investigate historical background of labor unions, the role they play in contemporary America, their selection process, the reason why people choose a union representation, and the challenges they may cause.
History of Labor Unions in the United States
A labor union can be defined as a certain form of collective alliance that has consolidated workers in order to build solidarities, as well as pursue common work-related targets. Members of labor unions tend to be more unified to struggle for better wages, job security, working conditions, and education benefits.
The creation of labor unions in the United States dates back to the colonial era when the cobblers, farmers, and carpenters formed small communities. In the 1700's, in Philadelphia, the shoemakers created a Trade Union aimed at regulating the wages they would pay students. Moreover, the purpose of the union was to outline the length of time required for the apprenticeship. Thus, the event resulted in the appearance of the earliest unions in the United States. Nevertheless, it was not until the 1800’s when the Industrial Revolution began and the unions started emerging membership and popularity (Dray 72). The reason for creation of the unions was in the low quality working conditions of employees who needed to improve their positions. In 1866, the National Labor Union (NLU) was founded uniting not a particular, but different types of workers (Dray 112). Although NLU did not succeed to make significant gains in supporting employees' rights, the founding of the union was an important phenomenon in America. In 1886, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) emerged unifying various local unions (Dray 133). During the years of World War II, AFL underwent a huge expansion. While working conditions were poor and women worked on a par with men, the union was centered on coordination and support of strikes during labor movement in the United States. The Union eventually transformed into a key component in national politics. Throughout the years, unions have helped workers improve their working rights and receive benefits.
Labor Unions Today
Today, labor unions continue working for the same purpose. There are two chief organizations in the United States that consist of the contemporary labor unions. The organizations are the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Change to Win Federation (Cengage Learning 2). The organizations represent workers and advocate their rights in political and legislative spheres. Moreover, both of them actively participate in politics supporting the Democratic Party. When a worker wants to join the union, he or she has to receive a voluntary recognition from the employer. In addition, there could be a large number of workers who agree to vote for union representation. Then, the government has to verify the newly formed union. Despite traditional unions, there are also public sector unions, which are controlled by both federal and state laws. It should be noted that, public sector unions have increased in number because elected local and state representatives define wages and working conditions. In addition, labor laws govern such unions in each state of America.
The Selection Process
To have single authority to discuss the work conditions, the union has to be supported by the larger part of the bargaining unit and receive a certificate in a workplace. Moreover, the union and workers have to sign the contract where they indicate the terms and conditions of employment. Such contract legally binds them together applying certain duties and rights on both sides. The main federal bill for the unions is the Employee Free Choice Act that provides employees with opportunity to sign a support card, and thus, either to elect union representation or not (Dray 237). Such process simplifies the task of unions to manage the workers. As soon as the majority of employees will vote by signing their cards, they can join a union they have chosen. Moreover, the card-check system is purposed to help unions grow by increasing the number of their members. At the same time, it is a choice of every worker whether to be unionized or not. Most people decide to choose union representation because the latter negotiates their terms of wages, promotion and retirement, as well as terms of work. Nevertheless, once the worker chooses to be represented by a union, he or she can change his or her mind.
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Reasons to Join Labor Union
Most workers join labor unions because they are guided by rational reasons. For example, some of employees choose the union representation because they seek for job security and insurance that their employment will be protected (Cengage Learning). Moreover, workers join labor unions because they will ensure fair payment, as well as benefits such as paid vacations, medical facility, and pensions. According to data, the income of workers belonging to certain labor union is 33% more than earnings of employees who are not members of any union (Schultz and Schultz 171). Moreover, the former have more job security, as well as better and safer work conditions.
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