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Labor Unions

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Essay title: Labor Unions

In this essay I’ll write about union membership, membership trends, the two types and levels, and the importance of unions. I’ll also discuss some of the negative sides of unionization in corporate America today.

Labor unions are groups or clubs of workers and employees who bond together to get good conditions, fair pay, and fair hours for their labor. These unions are usually joined together, and most unions in America are some branch of the largest labor union organization in the United States, the AFL-CIO with thirteen million members.

One of the largest unions is the Teamsters Union, formed in 1903, and perhaps the most contentious, union with 1.3 million members, were expelled from the AFL-CIO, in 1957. The labor organization grew rapidly and secured the important membership of the trucking industry.

Some of the largest unions are: National Education Association of the United States, Service Employees International Union, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and Communications Workers of America.

According to the U. S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics In 2004, 12.5 percent of wage and salary workers were union members, down from 12.9 percent in 2003. The union membership rate has steadily declined from a high of 20.1 percent in 1983. The public sector also declined from 37.2 percent to 36.4 percent in 2004. The number of union members fell to 15.5 million the past year. Within the public sector, local government workers such as teachers, fire fighters, police officers had the highest union membership rate, 41.3 percent. Among the private sector transportation and utilities had the highest union membership rate, at 24.9, but construction, information and manufacturing industries also had high rates. Among occupational groups, training, education and library occupations and protective service workers had the highest, and farming, fishing, sales and related occupations had to lowest unionization rates in 2004. In 2004, the union membership rate was 2.7 percent higher for men than women and African Americans were more likely to be union members than were whites, Asians, or Hispanics. Among the age groups, the highest union membership rates were among workers 45 to 54 years old and were lowest among workers 16 to 24 years old. The largest numbers of union members lived in California, 2.4 million and New York 2.0 million.

Over the last thirty years the membership in unions has declined as a result of changing trends in business. One of the reasons for the decline was the loss of jobs in manufacturing, which was the labor’s biggest stronghold. America has lost three million factory jobs over the past four years. The second reason is heavily unionized industries have been decreasing. Other reasons are many firms have moved from the unionized to the not so unionized Southeast and Southwest region and they tend to hire nonunion workers. Some of the American companies have moved their manufacturing process to other countries where very few unionized labor is employed. The management of the companies is providing benefits that include higher wages and better working conditions, therefore employees don’t need to join any union. The largest growths in employment take place in the service industries, and these industries regularly are not unionized.

The two main types of unions are craft unions and industrial unions. Craft unions are organizations of workers with similar skills. This type of union can maintain control over the supply of skilled laborers; often work for multiple employers in a year. (e.g. construction unions, pilot unions)

Industrial unions are organized by industry which originally started b/c ineligible for craft unions and typically work for one employer for long period. (e.g. steelworkers, auto workers)

Unions often have several levels which are; local: workers in plant or industry in a limited geographical area (Buhler union was CAW local 2224), national: larger union comprised of members of locals (CUPE, CAW), international: similar to national, but with members in more than one country (SEIU, United Steelworkers of America), and independent local: which is not formally associated with any national or international union (UMFA).

Since the foundation of the American Federation of Labor in 1886, most unions in the United States have

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