What is a Labor Union?

People who had no power in American society - workers and their families - production workers and office workers and those who roamed from job to job, young and old, skilled and unskilled, men and women, immigrants and native-born blacks and whites, created the UAW. "There are few times when the average person had
so much impact on history and American society as when these workers and their families united nation-wide to create unions like the UAW" (Brigham, Online). The dictionary definition of a labor union is "An organization of wage earners formed for the purpose of serving the members\' interests with respect to wages and working conditions."

History of UAW
"With a patchwork crew of only 78 members gathered from various auto parts shops and a tiny amount of money, the new 29-year-old president of Local 174, Walter Reuther, figured he would try, against all odds, to organize the workers of one of the automobile industry\'s titans: Ford. Reuther and his union allies decided they would first have to build a large membership base by organizing the 150,000 or so workers of Detroit\'s West Side. Their first target would be the Kelsey-Hayes Wheel Company, which made brakes for the Ford Motor Company and employed 5,000 workers. Kelsey-Hayes was selected not only because it provided an essential part to Ford but also because management there often unilaterally imposed work rules without regarding the needs of workers; UAW activists knew that many of the workers itched for a way to fight these bully tactics"(Brigham, Online).

"The unionists decided that the best strategy would be to conduct "quickie" strikes, where only one portion of the factory would strike at a time. The idea behind these firecracker-like strikes was to rally workers to join the union and to put the company on notice without a full-scale strike. To put the plan into motion, Walter\'s brother, Victor, and several of his friends got jobs inside at Kelsey-Hayes. The group began to put its plan into action with a few quickie strikes but, before long, the scattered disruptions soon gave way to a full-scale sit-down strike - where workers stop working and take over the factory. Kelsey-Hayes tried to thwart the strikers by
sending in spies who would provoke violence and give the company a reason to call in the police. That plan backfired; union members caught the spies and kicked them out of the plant, energizing both strikers inside and supporters outside" (Teamsters, Online).

"However, Reuther thought that if the strike were to go through Christmas,
the union\'s spirit could be broken. At the same time Ford was pressuring Kelsey-Hayes to solve its problem and get on with making brakes. The two sides came to the table and what emerged was a 71-word pact giving workers a 75-cent minimum wage, good overtime pay, rules respecting senior workers, and a 20 percent reduction in assembly line speed" (Teamsters, Online).

"But Henry Ford, who was obsessed with controlling his work force on
and off the job, hated unions; Kelsey-Hayes decided it could not afford Ford\'s wrath. So the company told Reuther it would agree to a contract only if it did not include union recognition - an open shop. This means that no one is required to join the union, allowing the company to pressure workers not to join, ultimately weakening both the union and the workers\' rights" (Teamsters, Online).

"Reuther agreed, angering some union die-hards. Nonetheless, when the
Strikers finally ended their sit-down strike, on a chilly night two days before Christmas, they were greeted as heroes by a throng of thousands of union workers. Though the Kelsey-Hayes contract was not all that the union wanted, workers welcomed it. It opened the doors to negotiation and, eventually, led to the full recognition of the UAW at the plant. This was a crucial step toward organizing the massive auto workforce on Detroit\'s West Side" (Teamsters, Online).

Wages
"Average hourly earnings for production and non-supervisory workers in the private sector (excluding agriculture) were flat in July at $12.23. The average for manufacturing workers crept up just three cents, to $13.14. In the first seven months of the year, workers\' hourly earnings grew at an annual rate of 2.9 percent, well below the 3.4 percent for the period last year" (Green, Online).

Pensions
"Suppose you\'re a young worker at