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Labor Unions and Management

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Labor Unions and Management

A labor union is an organization of employed workers that formed to undertake collective bargaining with employers and to try to achieve improved working conditions for its members.

Labor Unions go back all the way to the development of America. Starting when the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620, several of the pilgrims were craftsmen. These were considered primitive unions, or guilds of not just carpenters but also cabinet makers, cordwainers and cobblers made their appearance as well. Although many early attempts at labor unions failed, during the 19th century and the start of the Industrial Revolution, workers preserved and began union traditions that continue today. The purpose of forming unions was so that members could speak out and seek fair solutions when it came to working conditions, to improve job security, and increase wages and fringe benefits without the fear of penalty.

These members played a significant role in the struggle for independence. After the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, the unions, referring to “in the pursuit of happiness” wanted shorter hours and higher pay. The printers were the first to go on strike in 1786 in Philadelphia when the printers quit their jobs to protest a cut in wages. Since Philadelphia was the largest city in the Colonies at the time, it was the place where there were numerous attempt to unionize, but they were usually temporary because of the threat of criminal prosecution for labor-union activities. Following this strike the cabinet makers went in 1796; carpenters in 1797; and then the cordwainers in 1799. By the 1820’s numerous local unions had formed buy they were purely local in character and loose in structure. A number of them were only temporary and usually disappeared at the end of the strike. The unfavorable attitude of the courts hindered union growth and the emergence of unions was paralleled by the formation of employer’s association, which sought and employed workers who did not belong to labor unions. It wasn’t until 1842 when a Massachusetts court made the decision in the Commonwealth vs. Hunt case that states that a strike of works to improve their conditions was lawful and not a criminal conspiracy. It ruled that is was not illegal to belong to a union but that strikes and boycotts by unions might be illegal.

By the 19th century, records show an increasing effort by unions to improve working conditions by going on strike or negotiations became much more frequent. In a number of cities, unions in many different trades came together in citywide federations. The Nation Labor Union was formed in 1866 that eventually persuaded Congress to pass an eight hour work day for Federal workers. In addition to the Nation Labor Union, over the years many unions were formed in order to make working conditions for skilled workers better. However, for the past forty years, the number of labor unions has been declining in both membership and influence. There are several reasons for this decline, one being that employers keeping their business union-free. Many employers even hired consultants to devise legal strategies to combat unions from forming. Another reason for the decline would be that more and more women and teenagers are working which tends to be the second income for the family and accept lower wages therefore there is less need for organized labor. The third and probably most important reason for the decline in labor unions is that unions tend to be the victims of their own success. Because unions have raised their wages substantially higher then those wages of a nonunion worker, the products that they make are more expensive for the consumer to buy, thus losing business to less expensive nonunion producers.

There are approximately 12 million employees in the United States that are represented by labor union. Unions and management operate on two conflicting beliefs. The union beliefs are that:

- The fundamental goal of a union is to change the relationship between labor and management.

- The people believe that when they fight for a union that they are fighting for their dignity and respect

- That management has exploited labor in the past and continues to do so today

- Management is more interest in making a profit than in furthering the welfare of its employees

- They maintain that profits are produced by employees work and that employees should be well compensated to reflect their input

However, Management believes that:

- they look unfavorably upon unions

- unions are attempting to take over decisions that should be left to the management

- unions

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