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Labor Unions: Past, Present and Future Essay

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Labor Unions

Unions do not mean the end of an organization’s success or the end of sound human resources practices conducted by the management of the company. A union is also known as trade union which can be defined as the organization of the employees or workers of the company who have come together to achieve a goal or an objective in terms of wages, the working conditions or the working hours of the workers. Unions are considered to be open systems which are affected by their working environment and by political organizations, which are mostly influenced by the needs and the wishes of the union’s members.

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(Daft, 1997)

People who form unions are called union organizers and these people help the employees of the company in forming a local union. A local union is considered to be the important part of the union structure without it the union will not be able to work. The function of a local union is that it provides members for the union, revenue and power for the whole union movement.

The function of a union is that the leaders of the unions bargain with the owners or the management of the company on the behalf of their union workers and another function of the union is that it also negotiates the members of the union contracts with the management of the company. There are 3 kinds of local unions and they are as follows:-

1.      Craft unions: craft unions are composed of workers who possess the same skills or trades. Such unions would include all plumbers who work in the same geographic area.

2.      Industrial unions: industrial unions include the unskilled and the semi-skilled workers employed in the same location

3.      Mixed local: mixed local unions are those unions that are made up of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers. For example, United Automobile Workers has a combination of skilled and unskilled workers in their union.  (Werther & Davis, 1996)

President
Organization Structure of a Local Union

Business Agent
Secretary Treasurer
Steward
Steward
Steward
Advance Committee

Union Members                                   Union Members                                Union Members        (Werther & Davis, 1996)

There are a lot of companies that have more than one union and they still continue to perform the human resource activities as well throughout the organization. It has become mandatory for the mangers of the company to comply with the rules that have been introduced by the union management framework. There are some changes that cannot be skipped and then there are some laws that come from agreements between the union and the management. Sometimes it so happens that the union place constraints on an organization and due to this problem there are some companies that avoid unionization altogether. For example, Emerson Electric Company which produces fans, motors, tools and defense systems. This company still resists unionization because it hopes to keep its labor costs down through lower wages and greater management flexibility in the day to day operations of its factories. But there are some companies that seek different ways to prosper with a union through contract negotiations, dispute resolution procedures and various cooperative measures. Dispute resolution mostly relies on contractual terms and the cooperation of labor and the management of the company. Grievance procedures exist to solve disputes over contract interpretation of the employees of the company. Although strikes are rare, they allow both the parties to exercise their economic strengths and weaknesses in negotiating a labor agreement. Cooperation is mostly defined by the nature of the union management relationship, international and as well as domestic competitive pressures that have forced a lot of unions and employers to find different ways to corporate in order to prosper during the turbulent economic times. (Carrell & Heavrin 2006)

The Dos and the Don’ts of Negotiation by Unions

The Dos:-

1.       The first do of negotiation is that the party should ask for more because the party is going get less amount

2.      Negotiation should be dons in private and not through the help of media at all

3.      Both of the parties should win, if they don’t one party may retaliate

4.      Negotiation should be started with the easy issues first then should progress to the more serious ones

5.      Negotiation can be done by resolving deadlocks first it can be done through stressing on the past progress or behaviors of the parties

6.      It should always be remembered that negotiations are quite not finished when the agreement between the both parties is completed.

The Don’ts:-

1.      The first don’ t is that the party should not make the best offer in the being of the negotiation otherwise the other party will expect more

2.      The parties should not seek for changes that are unwanted it might happen that they will get them

3.      Both parties should not say no until or unless they know that their organizations will back them up  completely

4.      The parties should not violate each other’s confidence

5.      Settlement should be done quickly

6.      Both parties should make sure that either one of the party does not bypass the other and goes directly to the top management

7.      Both the parties should make sure that the top management does not participate in the actual negotiations because the top management is often quite inexperienced and poorly informed. (Werther & Davis, 1996)

History of Unions

The existences of unions go up to the 18th century. Unions started from the era of the industrialization, where the women, children, skilled and unskilled workers and immigrants were attracted towards the work environment. These people were considered to be the workforce of the factories and these people were in large numbers. (US labor History)

Labor unions have been linked with the guilds of the medieval Europe, but the relationship between the two has been very much argued about. Medieval guilds can be described as the groups that were used to protect and safeguard the livelihood of their members. These medieval guilds used to control the instructional capital of artisanship and from there used to control the members who used to progress form the apprentice to craftsmen and towards the master and then towards the grandmaster of the craft. As it is known that a labor union only includes members from the same craft or the unions are based upon the geographical areas. An old definition of labor union is that it is considered to be a continuous organization of the people who earn wages for the purpose of maintaining and improving the working conditions for the workers. It has recently been found out that unions were created so that they could benefit the society. The unions that were created for the sole purpose of benefiting the society include the medieval guilds, the Freemasons, Old fellows and other organizations etc.

The 19th Century Unionism

            In 1866 the first Nation Labor Union was formed in the United States of America. This union includes many kinds of workers from all over the country. This union did not gain much and after this union was dissolved another union The Knights of Labor was considered to be the leading union organization in the country at that time period that is 1860. The problem with this union was that it did not include Chinese at all and this union included very few African Americans and women. There were about 700,000 workers in this union country wide. This union worker for anti-child labor and it also demanded 8 hour day for the workers. This union believed that they were giving the workers and their members more free time and with their work they were providing benefits to the society as well. The members of the union started to decrease at the time of Haymarket massacre, when the people believed that the members of this union were communists and were considered to be anarchists as well. (US labor History)

            In 1904 Sam Gompers founded the American Federation of Labor (AFL). The American Federation of Labor union and the unions that were affiliated with the AFL organization had somewhere around 1.4 million people in it. This union mostly worked for improving the working conditions, improving the wages and improving the working hours of their workers. The impacts of union was that they helped to finish child labor, they also helped with introducing the worker’s safety and security programs, the also helped with increasing the wage rate as well. With the help of unions the standard of living was improved within the society. The working hours in a week were reduced and with it, it bought benefits to all the working families as well.        Union Today

Today’s union can be defined as the institution of the employees or workers of the company who have come together to achieve a common goal or an objective in terms of wages, the working conditions or the working hours of all the workers within a company. Unions are considered to be open systems which are affected by their working environment and by political organizations.  In organizations which are largely unionized the management of that company takes a conciliatory view of the union management relationship. In today’s world some employees view unions as outsiders and some employees view unions as another component of the business environment that must be carefully addresses and handled.

Unions still remain a very powerful political and economic force in companies which have a high percentage of unionized workers. For example, unions takes place in companies like electric utilities, telecommunications, manufacturing, trucking, aerospace, government and many more. The relationship between the management and the union is very important, the union-management relationship continues to take place within a well defined system of laws and procedures and past practices which consist of 3 principal actors 1) workers and their representatives that is the unions, 2) managerial employees that is the management of the company and 3) government representatives in the legislative, judicial and executive branches. Each of these parties depends upon each other. For example, management and the unions depend upon the government for protection of their legal rights. The managers rely on unions to honor their obligations and to assist the management in cooperative ventures so that the productivity and the quality of the products can be increased significantly. The presence of unions actually formalizes employee relations and it often leads to centralization of the employee’s relation decisions which are done by the human resource department of the company, to make sure that there is uniformity of treatment among the unionized workers. For example, privileges such as overtime or vacation preferences are decided on the basis of workers seniority, it is determined by the length of employment. The management must still manage and the union does not assume the responsibilities of the human resource department. Like any other organizations, unions are considered to be social systems that peruse the objectives and are influenced by the external environment. The financial strength of the employer, gains of rival unions, inflation and unemployment rates, government and international competition influences the union’s objectives greatly.

Sam Gompers methods and approaches towards union are now known as the business unionism because its being recognized that a union can survive only when if it has delivered what its members want in a businesslike manner. It is also been recognized that the unions must address larger social issues of politics and economics to serve the best interests of their members, this is known a social unionism. The business unionism mostly focuses on the membership or pay whereas social unionism mostly focuses on the welfare of members or of working people. While the business unionism directs its attention to bargain between the employer and the union, the human resource departments are mostly affected by the social unionism when the unions lobby for employment relations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Act and other various civil rights acts. And unions gain in wages and benefits or other changes must be met by the non-unionized employers that wish to remain competitive in the labor market. The companies that employ those workers who are in unions usually work with different kinds of models. And the models are as follows:-

·         Closed Shop: employs workers who belong to a union

·         Union Shop: employs workers who belong to a union and as well as those workers who do not belong to one but there a time limit for them, these employees have to join a union within a limited time period.

·         Agency Shop: the employees who do not belong to a union have to pay a certain sum of money to the union for their services like negotiating about their contract etc.

·         Open Shop: this shop helps with maintaining the workers and goes not discriminate their membership in any union. (Labor Union History)

It’s been believed that as the companies grew, the employees lost direct contact with the management of the company and therefore unions were created to help the workers influence work place decisions. It is through the unions that the workers were able to gain control over their jobs and the work environment of the company. When the management of the company tried to decrease the wage rates the workers were only able to rely upon the unions to fight and resist those actions. The most successful of these organizations have been The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, which is known as the AFL-CIO union. There are 3 kinds of union in the present day. And they are as follows:-

1.      Local union

2.      National unions

3.      Multi-union associations

Common Provisions in Union-Management Agreements

1.      Union recognition

2.      Union security: includes the following:-

a.       Union shop

b.      Agency shop

c.       Check off

3.      Wage rates of workers

4.      Cost of living of workers

5.      Insurance benefits of workers

6.      Pension benefits of workers

7.      Income maintenance of workers

8.      Time-off benefits for the workers

9.      Strikes or lockouts

10.  Seniority clause

11.  Management rights

12.  Discipline

13.  Dispute resolution between the management and unions  (Werther & Davis, 1996)

Unions of the Future

The future trends in the unionization are that the membership in the unions has been decreasing steadily. The number of the unionized employees in the manufacturing sectors is also decreasing significantly but whereas in the service sector it is growing steadily. It is been advised that the union have to become strong, adaptive to the changing business environments, have to be more focused, they should have a strong network system because of the global capitalism which is not going anywhere soon. (Hyman, 2002)

But the future for the unions looks very grim even in the service sectors as the governments as considered to be self-destructible when they are faced with the rising needs of the people. The union would have to become more flexible so that they will be able to deal with the present global economy and the unions will need to strengthen and retain their roots in the equity, justice and mutual care systems of the company. If the unions are not able to do so they will disintegrate. The unions have to come up with the terms that the jobs in the future are not permanent; therefore they would need to prepare their members for the times ahead. The unions would have to set themselves for the future so that they can prepare their members for a world without jobs but a world still with cultural, spiritual and individual meaning.

The labor unions in the 21st century are dealing with old issues but in new forms. For example, that whose interest the unions are working for, this can be answered or described in 4 ways. And they are 1 qualified elite, 2) the core workforce, 3) peripheral employees and 4) workers who are unemployed. (Hyman, 2002)

Conclusion

           A union is known as trade union or a labor unions as well which can be defined as the institution of the employees or workers of the company who come together to achieve a common goal or an objective in terms of wages, the working conditions or the working hours of the workers. The function of a local union is that it provides members for the union, revenue and power for the whole union movement. The function of a union is that the leaders of the unions bargain with the owners or the management of the company on the behalf of their union workers and another function of the union is that it also negotiates the members of the union contracts with the management of the company. There are 3 kinds of local unions and they are as follows 1) Craft unions, 2) Industrial unions and 3) Mixed local. Cooperation is considered to be the nature of the union management relationship, international and as well as domestic competitive pressures that have been forced upon a lot of unions and employers to find different ways to corporate in order to prosper during the hard economic times. For example, privileges such as overtime or vacation preferences are decided on the basis of workers seniority, it is determined by the length of employment. The management must still manage and the union does not assume the responsibilities of the human resource department. Like any other organizations, unions are considered to be social systems that peruse the objectives and are influenced by the external environment. It is been advised that the union have to become strong, adaptive to the changing business environments, have to be more focused, they should have a strong network system due to these changing environments, if they do not the unions will disintegrated. It is through the unions that the workers were able to gain control over their jobs and the work environment of the company. It is also been recognized that the unions must address larger social issues of politics and economics to serve the best interests of their members.

References

1.      Daft, R. L. (1997), Management. The Dryden Press

2.      Werther, W.B. & Davis, K. (1996), Human Resource & Personnel Management. McGraw-Hill

3.      Hyman, R. (2002), THE FUTURE OF UNIONS. Available from <www.yorku.ca/julabour/volume1/jl_hyman.pdf>, retrieved on 2nd September ’08

4.      Labor Union History (n.d), Available from < www.maineaflcio.org/labor_union_history.htm>, retrieved on 2nd September ’08

5.      US labor History (n.d.), Available from <www.doe.sd.gov/octa/ddn4learning/themeunits/USLabor/past.htm>, retrieved on 2nd September ’08

6.      Carrell, M. R & Heavrin, C. (2006), Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining Cases, Practice, and Law. Prentice Hall

 

Cite this Labor Unions: Past, Present and Future Essay

Labor Unions: Past, Present and Future Essay. (2016, Dec 21). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/labor-unions-past-present-and-future/

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