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