Labor Unions

Labor unions are groups or clubs of workers and employees who bond
together to get good working conditions, fair pay, and fair hours for their
labor. For example, in a newspaper, all the people who work the presses might
all belong to one union. All of the artists, who are responsible for the
artistic layout, might belong to another. These unions are usually joined
together, and most unions in America are some branch of the largest labor union
organization in the United States, the AFL-CIO. The unions of the workers at a
certain business or factory might get together with the management for a period
of time to talk about a contract. This time is known as negotiation. The union
will tell the management what it wants its workers getting paid, and then the
management will tell the union what it can pay the workers and still be earning
a reasonable profit. They bargain and it usually works out. Most businesses
and corporations have eight-hour work days, with optional extra hours. This is
not usually a topic in negotiations, but could be. Working conditions could be
discussed. If workers in the factory have no heat, no lunch breaks or they are
not allowed to speak, (which was the case in many sweatshops for immigrants and
children in the 1920\'s through 1940\'s), then the labor unions will obviously
want something done.
These differences are usually settled fairly quickly, and a new contract
featuring these agreements will be realized . Most contracts are in operation
for about 3 to 5 years. Then, negotiations begin again. This is how labor-
management relations go in a perfect world.
But, obviously, this is not always the case. Sometimes the unions want
unrealistic wages. They might stress extreme luxuries that the company cannot
provide for working conditions. Or the management may be stubborn and unwilling
to give up a large percentage of the profit in a good year. Or maybe both sides
are seemingly in the right and an agreement can not be met. Whatever the case
maybe, after the set negotiation has been passed, and a contract has not been
created, then the union will go to the workers tell them the situation, and they
will vote in a strike.
The unions purpose in the strike is to stop the company or factory from
caring out their purpose of existence. If they are supposed to deliver packages,
blockades will be set up in most cases to stop this. The union must succeed not
only in this, but in preventing replacement workers, known as scabs, from doing
their jobs. If the new workers can do the jobs and the company can perform its
job, then all the union members did by striking is quit their jobs and lose
benefits. They have to let the company feel their loss and force them to let
them back and meet their demands. In a striking situation, one of three basic
things happens: the union wins by preventing the company from overstating, they
get their jobs back and their demands are met; the management wins, the strike
fails, and the workers are unemployed; or the strike seemingly goes on forever,
a stalemate of a kind, and, hopefully, one side will just give in.
One of the methods that unions use to protest when on strike is
picketing, which is carrying around signs stating either your cause, what your
doing out there pacing on the sidewalk, or the union division you belong to.
Many strikes have become violent over history, whereas some are merely workers
who leave the job and will not come back until their demands are met. The
violent strikes may involve picketing, injury or death of workers, severe
rioting, damage and vandalization of company or employer property, and more.
Police have to intervene in this type of strike, and it is this type of labor
union action that irritates many people with the whole organization. A lot of
people are strongly for unions, whether they work for the particular company or
not, and will support the unions in their strikes. It is this sort of support
unions hope for, because the more people they get the stronger they are. But
some people, especially small business owners, who do not see much profit in a
day-to-day operation, are very critical of unions. Some union demands have
driven small business owners out of business, simply because they could not
afford to do what the union wanted.
The major formation of national labor unions came after the Civil War.
This war greatly expanded factory production and railroad building, which
generated much concern