UNIONISM





Economics


What exactly is unionism? According to the official Webster’s dictionary definition unionism (union) is defined as the confederation of independent individuals (as nations or persons) for some common purpose. Taking from this example we can see that a union is something that unites people for a common cause. In this case in particular, Labor unions will primarily be discussed. Labor unions are political units of people that organize together basically to demand rights from their respective companies over a variety of subjects such as pay and vacations. As of the year 2000 about 16 million U.S. workers belong to such a force. That is estimated to be about 13.5 percent of the total work force. Majority of these workers (about 13 million) belong to the joint American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) organization. These include unions such as the Communications Workers, Autoworkers, and the Carpenters. The remaining 3 million union members belong to independent unions, which aren’t affiliated with the AFL_CIO such as the Nurse’s Union and the United Mine Workers.


Despite such a large number of Unions however what, one may ask is th driving philosophy of these Unions? One phrase defines this aptly: Business Unionism. Business Unionism is the motivating and driving idea, which defines the ideal purpose of amassing such a work driven political unit. Business Unionism simply states short-term targets of higher pay, better benefits, shorter hours and improved working conditions. Long-term targets are not the aim of these unions for that would mean overthrowing the political system and establishing distinct parties in the political arena such as what many European nations currently have.


With all these benefits and the payoffs of unions one might wonder why hasn’t ever worker taken this offer. The unity of such a force against a tyrannical employer would surely protect the future employ with this as his/her arsenal. Right? Well on the contrary, two much surprise Unionism in America is on a steadfast decline. Two major hypotheses exist on the reasons for such an event. The first hypothesis is as the structural change hypothesis. This suggests that employment in the trandional-unionized industries such as manufacturing has gone down. The demands for the Service industry such as Retail workers, where unions are generally unfavorable, have gone up. To further add to this weakening, consumer manufactured goods are being produced overseas where labor is cheaper thus further decreasing manufacturing. And the final hit comes in from foreign competition strengthening in the manufacturing sector such as Japanese car manufacturers vying for control over the U.S. market. The second hypothesis is known as the managerial-opposition hypothesis. This suggests the counterattacks or defenses employers have put up to resist union rallies. They have hired special labor-management consultants who use persuasion techniques getting members from not unionizing or even voting out of their respective unions. This causes les profit for the firm and less pay ultimately for the union worker in the end. Therefore, the non-unionized firms believe that treating their employs with respect and dignity they don’t need these tactics nor do the workers need unions to gain self interest in both their stances.


Even though Unionism has gone down in America the use of collective bargaining is still an important feature in the worker-employer relations. Their goal is to establish a contract if you will setting wages, hours and working conditions for their work settings. This is what is known as a work agreement. Most of these work agreements are brief and concise while others can be lengthy and arduous. Specific topics covered also include the grievance procedures which are basically appeals of management misbehavior towards an employ due to personal not job specific reasons. Another specific topic discussed is the COLA or the cost-of-living adjustment. This is a clause which is including that adjusts a employees pay due to inflation and other factors specifically outlined which are considered to be cost of living. As far as the bargaining process goes the time of beginning a new contract is 60 days prior to the current one expiring. In this process the union generally takes the initiative and demands the items mentioned above from the employer.