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Main Causes for Union Mergers

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There are three main reasons underlying the continuous process of union mergers. First, small unions are more inclined to experience financial instability, as well as declines in membership. In order to deal with these problems, the union may resolve to join a bigger one. Second, mergers can be initiated by large unions trying to strengthen its position when there is fierce competition between major unions within an industry. A large union may also apply expansion strategy to go beyond its original sphere of influence. Consequently, it becomes another reason for large unions to merge with smaller ones so that to gain enough power to fight competitors in the new industry (Rose, 2004). Unions may also find it profitable to merge in order to improve economies of scale by, for example, reducing functional costs. Sometimes a merger is seen as a way to enhance the organizational structure of a union and boost its productivity (Rose, 2004).

For example, in 2005 the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE) concluded a merger agreement with the United Steelworkers of America (USWA), which was affiliated with the AFL CEO. The merger allowed the USWA to become the USA largest union in terms of membership (Ashak, 2008). The Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE), which is famous for its strong social values, and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE) formed a new union UNITE HERE in 2004. Yet, the new organization suffered severe internal conflicts. In 2009, most former UNITE members moved to United Workers union headed by Bruce Raynor. Independent unions also tend to merge. For instance, the oldest railway labor union in the North America the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers joined the  International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) in 2004 (Ashak, 2008).

Therefore, mergers between labor unions serve as an effective way to increase the bargaining power or solve inner organizational issues. However, life examples demonstrate that merging by itself does not guarantee any further success. Unions may still be subject to fierce inner tension and opposition leading to disaffiliation. Unless business relationships are built on a compromise, they will not last long.

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