Why is it so important that unions focus their energy and resources on organizing the unrecognized? 2. Describe and explain the major barriers to the increased unionization of women in “hard to organize” sectors and workplaces. 3. Do the experiences of organizing informal workers in India, or immigrant janitors in the United States, provide any lessons as to how unions can adopt new strategies that will increase women’s trade union participation? There are many reasons why unions should focus their energy and resources on organizing the unrecognized.
With the current statistics of the number of unionized workers it almost seems as though the organization of the unrecognized is a life and death question for the labor movement. Bringing in the millions of unrecognized workers into the unions is important and necessary not only for the protection of the unrecognized workers themselves but also to safeguard the life of the existing organizations. Attacks from employers are being made on many current trade unions threatening their very existence.
The struggles of these unions can be by drawing on the support of the great mass of the unrecognized. As the saying goes, there is power in numbers so by doubling or even tripling the total number of organized workers the increased weight of organized labor will enormously enhance its power. Also, if unions are able to bring the millions of unrecognized semiskilled and unskilled workers into the unions, it will provoke a whole series of battles against the employers and will immensely increase the militancy of the labor movement.
As previously stated, organizing the unrecognized will protect those workers that are already unionized. It will strengthen their bargaining position and help to rooter their jobs. Organizing the unrecognized will also bring larger numbers of unskilled and semiskilled, national minority (Afro-American, Chicane, etc. ) and women workers into the labor movement. History has shown that these groups are the least unionized and yet they are often the most militant and revolutionary-minded. In 2012, the percentage of U. S. Errors belonging to unions was 1 1. 3%, the lowest percentage in 76 years. In Canada, approximately 70% of employees in the public sector are unionized. In the private sector, union density is at an all-time low of 15. %. With these declining numbers, the possibility of a post-union workforce in Canada could eventually become a reality. The decline in union density and the need for numbers in order to fight employers trying to destroy unions are not the only reasons that unions should focus their energy and resources on organizing the unrecognized.
The unrecognized workers themselves are another reason. While reading “Life in a Fast-Food Factory,” by Esther Ritter, I was astonished at how employees at Burger King are treated. I understand the point of fast food restaurants is to get DOD to the customer quickly and to not charge too much but the ways in which Burger King tries to accomplish this as well as the ways in which they try to motivate employees has left me baffled. The article was written in 1986 but I’m sure most Burger King stores still run similar now as they did back then.
By hiring Donald Smith in 1977 who was the operations executive at McDonald’s and making him President, Burger King was able to leave the behind the old way of restaurant work which was an extensive division of labor which required workers to have varying amounts of skills and training and instead mound a way to avoid having the skill of the worker as the being central to production and instead found a way to make it so the machines were central to production making it so employees were easily trained and replaceable.
There is a manual in which all Burger King stores must follow to every last detail. Stores are investigated to ensure they are following policies and should the store not be up to par, managers could be transferred or even demoted. In the worst case scenario, a franchise’s license could even be withdrawn. With this being the case, those under employees are often pushed to go above and emend to guarantee things are done the Burger King way.
A few examples of what Burger King employees are faced with to make sure the store in which they are employed is up to standards include the following: When scheduling, short shifts are recommended so few breaks are required Employee meals are monitored and employees are only allowed to have a meal that costs at maximum $2. 0 and a manager must inspect all choices and initial the meal selection listed by employees on their time cards The use of labor was calculated to an exact number and provided Burger King with the ability to know hat workers were to be doing and how quickly they were to be doing it Customers eat in clean, open, decorated areas while employees at the store that the author worked at ate in a small room which a table took up most of the space and that was “decorated” with signs from management saying things such as the amount of condiments that were to go on each hamburger (i. . : 1/z ketchup) Young employees were reminded that their job was their priority, even over family, and if their parents gave them a hard time about their shifts they were reminded that their parents didn’t work there Instructions from making fries to a Whopper were to be learned step by step by all employees.
These instructions included everything right down to how many pickles were to go on the burger and where they were to be placed and how many fries were to be put in the bags Employees are not to leave the kitchen to take a drink or use the washroom during the lunch and dinner rushes Employees had been fired for not having the “right” attitude Burger King demands so much from their employees and yet it seems as though they are not willing to do anything for their employees in return.
These are the employees that need unions to fight for them. Unfortunately part-time, young workers are hard to organize but it seems that employers know this and take advantage of this fact. There are of course laws and legislation that these workers can turn to should their rights be stepped on but most are not willing to go through the process and end up quitting.
If unions were able to organize these groups of people, then there work lives could become much more enjoyable and tolerable. Women have been outpacing men as new members of unions and organizing campaigns in which women are a majority of the workforce have been more likely to succeed. Working women make up 43% of union members but 55% of newly organized workers. However, there are still barriers preventing the organizing of women. In the study guide, six barriers are observed.
These include: Gender bias organizing Hierarchical and “male” leadership styles Informal procedures in the unions for nominations or appointments that rely on established male networks A lack of time for union activities because of conflicting family responsibilities Legal constraints limiting union membership for some groups of women workers Internal union structures that accept rather than halogen gender inequalities, such as insufficient resources devoted to child care during union events These barriers have resulted in limited female involvement in union activities. One area which is most notable is in collective bargaining.
This has led to issues such as child care, sexual harassment, pay equity, etc. Being ignored or at least not highly prioritize. In their article, “Labor Union Response to Diversity in Canada and the United States”, authors Gerald Hunt and David Raised make the following observation which says a lot about why women’s status why it is what it is when it comes to onions, “The historical legacy of unions treating women as a low-waged threat to men’s job was combined with widespread belief that women’s jobs were unrecognizable to produce a substantial lag in labor movement engagement with gender issues”, (Hunt & Raised, peg. 18). Women have also been underrepresented and limited in their leadership roles with the reasons being the difficulties that many women face trying to balance all their responsibilities including family, work and union. Unions have been slow to make changes to better respond to the needs and emends of women leaving them to continue to be a more male-dominated area. As long as the majority of members are male and the majority of leadership continues to stay male, then leadership styles will continue to stay the same and women’s issues will not become a priority in collective bargaining and so forth.
One statistic pointed out by Hunt and Raised was that the American Federation of Teachers in 1995 was 65% female members and yet only 11 of its 34-person executive were women. In the AAU, 22% of members were women and yet there was only 1 woman on the executive board that was made up of 18 people. Should these types of statistics not change, then there will be no significant change or gains for women in unions. Women are continually viewed as cheap and compliant labor resulting in them being perceived as a threat to unions.
The persistent gender segregation of the workforce is a leading cause of unequal rates of unionization and pay inequity. There are many scholars who believe that unions are secretly practicing ways in which to keep the workplace segregated. As long as women are regarded as being threats to unions and hard to organize, unions will continue to be male-dominated and will continue to serve TTS male members while ignoring female members. In my opinion this will lead to union membership to continue to decline.
After reading the articles, “From Development to Empowerment: The Self- Employed Women’s Association in India,” by Reach Data and “Constructing Union Motherhood: Gender and Social Reproduction in the Los Angels ‘Justice for Janitors’ Movement,” by Cynthia J. Crawford, I do believe that the experiences of organizing informal workers in India and immigrant janitors in the United States, can provide lessons as to how unions can adopt new strategies that will increase women’s trade union participation.
In Reach Data’s article, it discusses the formation of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWS) in 1972 which acts like a trade union and organizes women into cooperatives. The organization also provides services such as banking, child-care, legal aid, and vocational instruction. In Cynthia J. Cardboard’s article, she discusses the Los Angels Justice for Janitors 04) union movement in which many immigrant women and men held many mass protests disrupting the areas around the buildings in which they worked when employers began interaction out work to non-unionized workers.
In both articles many different strategies were noted that aided in encouraging many women to not only join the union but to become active members. SEWS looked to empower women and to give them the means in which to immobile themselves and to take on leadership positions whether in work settings or within the community. Unionizing self-employed women, providing credit through the SEWS bank and research and training in areas such as health and childcare are all parts of the integrated approach of SEWS.
With Sea’s assistance, women were able to establish milk, child care and health cooperatives. There has been an increase in rural women’s employment in land and livestock based work and home crafts, women have found their voices through collective struggle, cooperatives have accepted the challenge of generating more income and power and to me what is most important, SEWS has aided its members in fighting injustices. Other ways in which SEWS helps its members is through the SEWS Bank and Video SEWS.
The SEWS bank provides the means for women to obtain loans in order to become self-employed and also allows women to establish savings for themselves. Video SEWS encourages and enables its members to not only learn how to create videos but it also teaches video technology to poor women who are/were mostly illiterate. SEWS set out to organize poor, self-employed women and to give these women confidence and to show them how to be self-reliant and how to succeed in leadership roles.
In the case of Los Angels Justice for Janitors (J) union movement, the janitors fought the contracting out of their jobs to non-unionized workers and practiced ND framed unionism in familial ways. When it comes to most women if asked what their number one priority is, most would respond with their family. With that being the case, the Jess move into making their union movement what they referred to as a family affair appealed to the women.
Many janitors would bring their children to the protests and it was almost as though “everyone” was then responsible for the children that were present. This allowed for those parents without outside support to help with childcare to continue to be present at protests/marches and led to a great feeling of solidarity. In the article Crawford states, “The practice of unionism as a “family affair” was meant to facilitate the participation of women in the street demonstrations and other union activities alongside men, thus women staffers embroiled around gender inequalities in families. (Crawford, peg. 369). Family issues were a priority (healthcare, living wages, health insurance etc. ) and what were historically women’s issues became everyone’s issues. In realizing that members needed more ownership over their union in order to continue to organize the unrecognized as well as protect and improve contract mains, union staff began to both forth effort to recruit the female janitors into formal leadership positions also encouraged women to become active members within the union.
This saw many women join the union staff and move into important positions and have significant presence on the elected negotiating committee. What can be learned from SEWS and the J is that in order to increase women’s trade union participation, unions must provide potential female members with the services and means needed in order for them to be successful. This means giving them a sense of identity within the union as well as giving them some rower.
Women need to feel empowered and need to find suitable strategies for themselves in order to confront and overcome obstacles. Unions need to identify what each individual member requires and provide that member with the necessary resources to be successful and self-sufficient. What have been historically labeled as “women’s issues” need to become more of a priority within the union and women need to feel that their concerns are being heard and responded to. By doing this unions will become more successful and will be able to build membership.
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