Labor unions in the United States

Labor unions in the United States

Labor unions in the United States function as legally recognized representatives of workers in numerous industries. The most prominent unions are found among public sector employees such as teachers and police. Activity by labor unions in the United States today centers on collective bargaining over wages, benefits, and working conditions for their membership and on representing their members if management attempts to violate contract provisions. Although much smaller compared to their peak membership in the 1950s, unions also remain an important political factor (especially within the Democratic Party), both through mobilization of their own memberships and through coalitions with like-minded activist organizations. Today most unions are aligned with one of two larger umbrella organizations: the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Federation, which split from the AFL-CIO in 2005. Both organizations advocate policies and legislation favorable to workers in the United States and Canada, and take an active role in politics. The AFL-CIO is especially concerned with global trade issues.American union membership in the private sector has in recent years fallen under 9%--levels not seen since 1932. Workers seem uninterested in joining, and strike activity has almost faded away. The labor force in unionized automobile and steel plants, for example, has fallen dramatically. In another example, Construction trades now only represent approximately 14% of the labor market. The inability to prevent non-union companies from taking significant market share has undercut union membership.Fact|date=August 2007

American unions remain an important political factor, both through mobilization of their own memberships and through coalitions with like-minded activist organizations around issues such as immigrant rights, trade policy, health care, and living wage campaigns. Unions allege that employer opposition (including running [ anti-union campaigns] using [ union avoidance] consultants) contributed to this decline in membership. Unions have responded by using their political power to amend United States labor law to restrict or eliminate the requirement for a vote on the issue of union representation, instead relying on card check recognition.

Labor unions today

Infobox Union by Country
country = United States
national = AFL-CIO, CtW
government = United States Department of Labor
National Labor Relations Board
legislation = National Labor Relations Act
Taft-Hartley Act
membership_number = 15.4 million [cite web
title= Union Members Summary
work=United States Department of Labor
union_percentage1_title = Percentage of workforce
union_percentage1 = ▪ Total - 12.5%
▪ Public sector -36.5%
▪ Private sector -7.8%
▪ Age 16 - 24 -4.6%
▪ 25 - 34 -10.7%
▪ 35 - 44 -13.7%
▪ 45 - 54 -16.5%
▪ 55 - 64 -16.5%
▪ 65 and over -8.9%
▪ Women -11.3%
▪ Men -13.5%
union_percentage2_title = Standard Occupational Classification
union_percentage2 = ▪ Management, professional -13.4%
▪ Service -11.6%
▪ Sales and office -7.3%
▪ Natural resources,
and maintenance -16.5%
▪ Production,
and material moving -18.0%
ILOmember = yes
ILO-87date = no
ILO-98date = no
Today most labor unions in the United States are members of one of two larger umbrella organizations: the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) or the Change to Win Federation, which split from the AFL-CIO in 2005. Both organizations advocate policies and legislation favorable to workers in the United States and Canada, and take an active role in politics favoring the Democratic party but not exclusively so. The AFL-CIO is especially concerned with global trade issues.

The Change to Win Federation concerns itself more with domestic Craft labor issues, contributes to many candidates supportive of labor's issues regardless of party affiliation and chooses to avoid social policy controversies ("Guns, God, and Gays") that do not directly concern the economics and well-being of its members.

Private sector union members are tightly regulated by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), passed in 1935. The law is overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), part of the United States Department of Labor. Public sector unions are regulated partly by federal and partly by state laws. In general they have shown robust growth rates, for wages and working conditions are set through negotiations with elected local and state officials. The unions' political power thus comes into play, and of course the local government cannot threaten to move elsewhere, nor is there any threat from foreign competition. In California the public sector unions have been especially successful.

To join a traditional labor union, workers must either:
*be given voluntary recognition from their employer or
*have a majority of workers in a "bargaining unit" vote for union representation.

In either case, the government must then certify the newly formed union. Other forms of unionism include minority unionism, Solidarity unionism, and the practices of organizations such as the Industrial Workers of the World, which do not always follow traditional organizational models.

Public sector worker unions are governed by labor laws and labor boards in each of the 50 states. Northern states typically model their laws and boards after the NLRA and the NLRB. In other states, public workers have no right to establish a union as a legal entity. (About 40% of public employees in the USA do not have the right to organize a legally established union.)

Once the union has won the support of a majority of the bargaining unit and is certified in a workplace, it has the sole authority to negotiate the conditions of employment. However, under the NLRA, if a minority of employees voted for a union, those employees can then form a union which represents the rights of only those members who voted for the union. This minority model was once widely used, but was discarded when unions began to consistently win majority support. Unions are beginning to revisit the "members only" model of unionism because of new changes to labor law which unions view as curbing workers' ability to organize.

The employer and the union write the terms and conditions of employment in a legally binding contract. When disputes arise over the contract, most contracts call for the parties to resolve their differences through a grievance process to see if the dispute can be mutually resolved. If the union and the employer still cannot settle the matter, either party can choose to send the dispute to arbitration, where the case is argued before a neutral third party.

In the 1940s and 1950s links to organized crime were discovered in U.S. unions, hurting their image.

Since the 1970s, union membership has been steadily declining in the private-sector while growing in the public sector.

Right-to-work statutes forbid unions from negotiating agency shops. Thus, while unions do exist in "right-to-work" states, they are typically weaker.

Members of labor unions enjoy "Weingarten Rights." If management questions the union member on a matter that may lead to discipline or other changes in working conditions, union members can request representation by a union representative. Weingarten Rights are named for the first Supreme Court decision to recognize those rights. [NLRB v. J. Weingarten, Inc., 420 U.S. 251 (1975); [ Tate & Renner Attorneys at Law] ]

The NLRA goes farther in protecting the right of workers to organize unions. It protects the right of workers to engage in any "concerted activity" for mutual aid or protection. Thus, no union connection is needed. Concerted activity "in its inception involves only a speaker and a listener, for such activity is an indispensable preliminary step to employee self-organization." [Root-Carlin, Inc., 92 NLRB 1313, 27 LRRM, 1235, citing NLRB v. City Yellow Cab Co. (6th Cir. 1965), 344 F.2d 575, 582; [] ]

Recent Trends in Union Membership in the United States

Union Membership had been steadily declining in the US since 1983. In 2007, the labor department reported the first increase in Union memberships in 25 years and the largest increase since 1979. Most of the recent gains in union membership have been in the service sector while the number of unionized employees in the manufacturing sector has declined. Most of the gains in the service sector have come in West Coast states like California where union membership is now at 16.7% compared with a national average of about 12.1% (cite web|url=|title=Union Membership Up Slightly in 2007) []

Union density (the percentage of workers belonging to unions) has been declining since the late 1940s, however. Almost 36% of American workers were represented by unions in 1945. Today that figure is around 12%. Significantly, the rapid growth of public employee unions since the 1960s has served to mask an even more dramatic decline in private sector union membership.

At the apex of union density in the 1940s, only about 9.8% of public employees were represented by unions, while 33.9% of private, non-agricultural workers had such representation. In this decade, those proportions have essentially reversed, with 36% of public workers being represented by unions while private sector union density has plummeted to around 7%.

=Labor Education Programs in the United States= In the US, labor education programs such as the [ Harvard Trade Union Program] created in 1942 by Harvard University professor John T. Dunlop sought to educate union members to deal with important contemporary workplace and labor law issues of the day. The Harvard Trade Union Program is now currently part of a broader initiative at Harvard Law School called the [ Labor and Worklife Program] that deals with a wide variety of labor and employment issues from union pension investment funds to the effects of nanotechnology on labor markets and the workplace.

Jurisdiction of labor unions

Labor unions use the term jurisdiction to refer to their claims to represent workers who perform a certain type of work and the right of their members to perform such work. For example, the work of unloading containerized cargo at United States ports, which both the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have claimed rightfully should be assigned to workers they represent. A jurisdictional strike is a concerted refusal to work undertaken by a union to assert its members' right to such job assignments and to protest the assignment of disputed work to members of another union or to unorganized workers. Jurisdictional strikes occur most frequently in the United States in the construction industry.

Unions also use "jurisdiction" to refer to the geographical boundaries of their operations, as in those cases in which a national or international union allocates the right to represent workers among different local unions based on the place of those workers' employment, either along geographical lines or by adopting the boundaries between political jurisdictions.

ee also

* Commission on Industrial Relations
* Industrial Workers of the World
* List of strikes
* Timeline of labor unions in the United States
* Union affiliation by U.S. state
* Labor federation competition in the U.S.



* Arneson, Eric. ed. "Enyclopedia of US Labor and Working-Class History" (2006), 650 entries in 1800 pages
* Melvyn Dubofsky and Foster Rhea Dulles. "Labor in America: A History" (2004)
* Nelson Lichtenstein. "State of the Union: A Century of American Labor" (2003)
* Paul LeBlanc. "A Short History of the U.S. Working Class: From Colonial Times to the Twenty-First Century" (1999)
* Millie Beik, ed. "Labor Relations: Major Issues in American History" (2005) over 100 annotated primary documents

;To 1900
*Commons, John R. "History of Labour in the United States" - Vol. 2 1860-1896 (1918)
*John R. Commons, "American Shoemakers, 1648-1895: A Sketch of Industrial Evolution," "Quarterly Journal of Economics" 24 (November, 1909), 39-83. in JSTOR
*Grob, Gerald N. "Workers and Utopia: A Study of Ideological Conflict in the American Labor Movement, 1865-1900" (1961)
*John P. Hall, "The Knights of St. Crispin in Massachusetts, 1869-1878," "Journal of Economic History" 18 (June, 1958), p 161-175
*Laslett, John H. M. "Labor and the Left: A Study of Socialist and Radical Influences in the American Labor Movement, 1881-1924" (1970)
*Mandel, Bernard. "Samuel Gompers: A Biography" (1963)
*Orth, Samuel P. "The Armies of Labor: A Chronicle of the Organized Wage-Earners" (1919) short overview
*Voss, Kim. "The Making of American Exceptionalism: The Knights of Labor and Class Formation in the Nineteenth Century" (1993)]
*Weir, Robert E. "Beyond Labor's Veil: The Culture of the Knights of Labor" (1996)
* [ Bibliography of online resources on railway labor in late 19th century]

*Bernstein, Irving. "The Lean Years: A History of the American Worker, 1920-33" (1966)
*Brody, David. "Labor in Crisis: The Steel Strike of 1919" (1965)
*Dubofsky, Melvyn and Warren Van Tine. "John L. Lewis: A Biography" (1986)
*Brody, David. "Labor in Crisis: The Steel Strike of 1919" (1965)
*Faue, Elizabeth. "Community of Suffering & Struggle: Women, Men, and the Labor Movement in Minneapolis, 1915-1945" (1991)
*Fraser, Steve. "Labor Will Rule: Sidney Hillman and the Rise of American Labor" (1993)
*Gordon, Colin. "New Deals: Business, Labor, and Politics, 1920-1935" (1994)
*Greene, Julie . "Pure and Simple Politics: The American Federation of Labor and Political Activism, 1881-1917" (1998)
*Hooker, Clarence. "Life in the Shadows of the Crystal Palace, 1910-1927: Ford Workers in the Model T Era" (1997)
*Laslett, John H. M. "Labor and the Left: A Study of Socialist and Radical Influences in the American Labor Movement, 1881-1924" (1970)
*Karson, Marc. "American Labor Unions and Politics, 1900-1918" (1958)
*McCartin, Joseph A. "’Labor's Great War: The Struggle for Industrial Democracy and the Origins of Modern American Labor Relations, 1912-1921" (1997)
*Mandel, Bernard. "Samuel Gompers: A Biography" (1963)
*Meyer, Stephen. "The Five Dollar Day: Labor Management and Social Control in the Ford Motor Company, 1908-1921" (1981)
*Mink, Gwendolyn. "Old Labor and New Immigrants in American Political Development: Union, Party, and State, 1875-1920" (1986)
*Orth, Samuel P. "The Armies of Labor: A Chronicle of the Organized Wage-Earners" (1919) short overview
*Quint, Howard H. "The Forging of American Socialism: Origins of the Modern Movement" (1964)
*Warne, Colston E. ed. "The Steel Strike of 1919" (1963), primary and secondary documents
*Zieger, Robert. "Republicans and Labor, 1919-1929." (1969)

;Primary sources
*Gompers, Samuel. "Seventy Years of Life and Labor: An Autobiography" (1925)

;1932 - 1955
*Bernstein, Irving. "Turbulent Years: A History of the American Worker, 1933-1941" (1970)
*Campbell, D'Ann. "Sisterhood versus the Brotherhoods: Women in Unions" "Women at War With America: Private Lives in a Patriotic Era" (1984).
*Dubofsky, Melvyn and Warren Van Time "John L. Lewis" (1986).
*Faue, Elizabeth. "Community of Suffering & Struggle: Women, Men, and the Labor Movement in Minneapolis, 1915-1945" (1991), social history
*Fraser, Steve. "Labor Will Rule: Sidney Hillman and the Rise of American Labor" (1993).
*Galenson, Walter. "The CIO Challenge to the AFL: A History of the American Labor Movement, 1935-1941" (1960)
*Gordon, Colin. "New Deals: Business, Labor, and Politics, 1920-1935" (1994)
*Jensen, Richard J. "The Causes and Cures of Unemployment in the Great Depression," "Journal of Interdisciplinary History" 19 (1989) p. 553-83
*Kennedy, David M. "Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945." (1999) recent narrative.
*Lichtenstein, Nelson. "Labor's War at Home: The CIO in World War II" (2003)
*Miller, Sally M., and Daniel A. Cornford eds. "American Labor in the Era of World War II" (1995), essays by historians, mostly on California
*Preis, Art. "Labor's Giant Step" (1964)
*Seidman; Joel. "Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen: The Internal Political Life of a National Union" (1962)
*Vittoz, Stanley. "New Deal Labor Policy and the American Industrial Economy" (1987)
*Zieger, Robert H. "The CIO, 1935-1955" (1995)

;Fair Employment FEPC
*William J. Collins, "Race, Roosevelt, and Wartime Production: Fair Employment in World War II Labor Markets," "American Economic Review" 91:1 (March 2001), pp. 272-286
*Andrew Edmund Kersten, "Race, Jobs, and the War: The FEPC in the Midwest, 1941-46" (2000) [ online review]
*Merl E. Reed. "Seedtime for the Modern Civil Rights Movement: The President's Committee on Fair Employment Practice, 1941-1946" (1991)

;Taft-Hartley and the NLRA
*Abraham, Steven E. "The Impact of the Taft-Hartley Act on the Balance of Power in Industrial Relations" "American Business Law Journal" Vol. 33, 1996
*Ballam, Deborah A. "The Impact of the National Labor Relations Act on the U.S. Labor Movement" "American Business Law Journal", Vol. 32, 1995
*Brooks, George W., Milton Derber, David A. McCabe, Philip Taft. "Interpreting the Labor Movement" (1952)
*Gilbert J. Gall, "The Politics of Right to Work: The Labor Federations as Special Interests, 1943-1979" (1988)
*Fred A. Hartley Jr. and Robert A. Taft. "Our New National Labor Policy: The Taft-Hartley Act and the Next Steps" (1948)
*Lee, R. Alton. "Truman and Taft-Hartley: A Question of Mandate" (1966)
*Harry A. Millis and Emily Clark Brown. "From the Wagner Act to Taft-Hartley: A Study of National Labor Policy and Labor Relations" (1950)

;Walter Reuther and UAW;Secondary sources
*Boyle, Kevin. "The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945-1968" (1995)
*Kornhauser, Arthur et al. When Labor Votes: A Study of Auto Workers (1956)
*Lichtenstein, Nelson. "The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor" (1995)
*Lichtenstein, Nelson and Stephen Meyer, eds. "On the Line: Essays in the History of Auto Work" (1989)

;Primary sources
*Christman, Henry M. ed. "Walter P. Reuther: Selected Papers" (1961)

;1955 - 2006
*Taylor E. Dark; "The Unions and the Democrats: An Enduring Alliance" Cornell University Press. 1999
*Rick Fantasia & Kim Voss. "Hard Work: Remaking the American Labor Movement" (2004)
*Galenson, Walter; "The American Labor Movement, 1955-1995" (1996)
*Arthur J. Goldberg; "AFL-CIO, Labor United" (1956)
*Leiter, Robert D. "The Teamsters Union: A Study of Its Economic Impact" (1957)
*Jo-Ann Mort (Ed), "Not Your Father's Union Movement: Inside the AFL-CIO" (2002)

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