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Trade Unions

TRADE UNIONS

TRADE UNIONS are associations that represent the collective interests of their employee-members in bargaining and negotiating with large employers. Trade unions generally seek to obtain higher wages, reduced working hours, and improved working conditions for employees. In addition, trade unions seek to improve workplace safety and to obtain increased benefits, such as health insurance, pensions, and disability insurance, for employees. Unions also look to protect the employment security of their members, largely by negotiating to implement seniority rules and to eliminate "at-will" employment contracts under which non-union employees traditionally have been subject to dismissal without cause.

Although trade unions did not obtain legal recognition until the 1930s, laborers first began organizing to bargain collectively with employers long before obtaining such recognition.

1780s–1880s

In addition to being the cradle of American liberty, the city of Philadelphia also served as the cradle of American labor activism. In 1786, Philadelphia printers staged America's first labor strike, successfully procuring a $6 per week minimum wage. In 1792, Philadelphia shoemakers formed America's first labor association, which lasted for one year before disbanding.

In 1834, representatives from various separate trade unions convened at the National Trades' Union (NTU) Convention, in New York City. The NTU convention, which marked the first substantial effort to create a national labor organization in the United States, set goals for the labor movement that included obtaining legal recognition for trade unions in every American jurisdiction, organizing unorganized workers, establishing universal free public education for children and adults, and eliminating child labor. Some NTU members sought to pursue their goals through political channels by creating a separate political party.

A successor to the NTU was formed in 1866, when the National Labor Union (NLU) brought together national trade organizations, local trade unions, city trade assemblies, and other reform-minded groups. The NLU's progressive agenda included equal pay for equal work regardless of race or gender, an eight-hour work day, and arbitration. Three years later, in 1869, Philadelphia tailors formed the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor (KoL), an organization that included skilled and unskilled labor and promoted arbitration over strikes. Inspired by the socialist movement, the KoL proposed to replace capitalism with workers' cooperatives.

In the following decades, however, these organizations went into decline. First, in 1872, the NLU dissolved after local issues came to overshadow national efforts. Then, a decade later, the KoL lost influence and membership after loosely organized labor was implicated in Chicago's violent Haymarket Riot of 1886.

1880s–1930s: Labor Gains Momentum

In 1886, a KoL splinter group formed the American Federation of Labor (AFL), electing cigar-maker Samuel Gompers as its first president (1886–1924, except 1895). The AFL organized skilled craftsmen by trade, but excluded unskilled workers. Stressing economic rather than political goals, the AFL under Gompers promoted the use of labor strikes and boycotts, and emphasized the need for written contracts with employers. The AFL's focus was national; Gompers discouraged involvement with local or international issues. Gompers worked within existing political parties, dampening support for a separate labor party.

In the early twentieth century, a series of statutes enacted by Congress secured legal protection for labor organizing and union activity. In 1914, the Clayton Anti-trust Act made clear that peaceful combinations of workers in labor organizations were not criminal conspiracies. In 1932, the Norris-LaGuardia Act stripped federal judges of power to enjoin strikes, making it easier for workers to strike and picket. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (Wagner Act or NLRA) recognized the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively. The NLRA also created the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), whose three members were charged with supervising union elections and stopping employers' unfair labor practices.

In 1935, President John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers of America urged the AFL to begin organizing unskilled industrial workers, in addition to skilled workers. When the AFL refused, Lewis formed the Committee on Industrial Organization (CIO) within the AFL. By late 1938, however, the CIO ratified its own constitution (becoming the Congress of Industrial Organization), and split from the AFL. During Lewis's tenure as the CIO's first president (1936–1940), unskilled steel and automobile production workers were organized.

1939–1945: War Economy

After Pearl Harbor, the AFL and CIO promised to refrain from utilizing labor strikes for the duration of the war. Without the power to strike, workers lost their most important tool to offset employer power. Further, accelerated wartime productivity increased workplace accidents and injuries.

To support workers, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created a 12-member National War Labor Board in 1942, with four members each representing business, organized labor, and government. No constituency was satisfied. Workers disliked the Little Steel Formula of 1942, which restricted wage increases in order to check inflation. Business leaders chafed under Board rulings that presumed new workers at union plants to be union members, and that required employers to terminate workers who failed to pay union dues. Labor, however, remained loyal to Roosevelt, hopeful that their loyalty would pay off politically at the war's end. Japan's surrender in August 1945 ended the AFL-CIO No-Strike Pledge, and was followed by a six-month tidal wave of strikes.

1945–1960: Gains in Collective Bargaining, Stability, Affluence

In the postwar period, labor unions consolidated successes including the institutionalization of collective bargaining, the development of employee benefits packages, and the adoption of grievance procedures and unionsponsored seniority systems for individual employment decisions. These union successes improved the lot of non-union workers as well. Per capita U.S. wages rose 45 percent in the 1940s, and 56 percent in the 1950s. For many, the urgency of the worker's struggle diminished.

At the same time, new postwar legislation sought to limit union power. The 1947 Taft-Hartley Act gave individual workers a right to refuse union membership (strikinga blow against "closed shop" facilities). It also required unions to provide advance notice of strikes; reauthorized federal courts to enjoin strikes affecting national health or safety for eighty days; restricted unions' financial contributions to political candidates; defined unfair labor and union practices; outlawed mass picketing; and neutralized the NLRB's former labor advocacy position.

Labor leaders responded to Taft–Hartley by intensifying political action. Both the AFL and the CIO backed the Democratic Party, effectively ending any lingering support for a separate labor party. In the late 1940s, labor unions began expunging communists from their ranks. In 1952, staunch anticommunist George Meany became head of the AFL. Three years later, to increase labor's clout, Meany and CIO president Walter Reuther orchestrated an AFL-CIO merger. While Meany assumed the new joint AFL-CIO presidency, Reuther continued to serve as United Auto Worker (UAW) president until his death in 1970.

In 1957, Congress enacted the Landrum-Griffin Act to control union corruption, while the AFL-CIO expelled the 1.5 million-member Teamsters Union for corruption. Between 1957 and 1988, three Teamster presidents were convicted and sentenced to prison terms for corruption (Dave Beck, Jimmy Hoffa, and Roy Williams). The Teamsters Union was not readmitted to the AFL-CIO until 1987.

1960s–1970s: Labor Looks Conservative and Bureaucratic

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy issued an executive order encouraging union representation and collective bargaining on behalf of federal employees. Consequently, union membership ballooned among public sector employees during the 1960s. However, with the AFL-CIO and the Teamsters serving as the public face of the labor movement, unions' liberal image changed. In particular, these organizations' pro–Vietnam War positions caused declines in new union membership among America's youth.

The AFL-CIO also was widely perceived in the 1960s as being insufficiently supportive of civil rights. In particular, unions suffered from a dearth of African American union officials and from ongoing segregation and unequal treatment in the locals. In 1960, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters president A. Philip Randolph (then the only African American AFL-CIO official) formed the Negro American Labor Council (NALC) in order to advance the interests of African American laborers. In 1966, however, Randolph resigned from NALC after its public criticisms of the AFL-CIO intensified.

The labor movement's public reputation was also marred in 1964, when it was revealed that Teamsters' pension funds had been loaned by union officials to organized crime figures. The ensuing scandal caused the downfall of Teamsters' president Jimmy Hoffa, who began serving a thirteen-year federal prison term in 1967, but remained president of the Teamsters Union until 1971.

Differences between AFL head Meany and UAW (and former CIO) head Reuther on issues of civil rights, political activity, funding of organizing activities, and eventually Vietnam, all led to the UAW's thirteen-year withdrawal from the AFL-CIO from 1968 to 1981. In 1972, the pro-war AFL-CIO declined to endorse pro-labor Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern, because of McGovern's antiwar stance.

Even while the established organs of organized labor were facing difficult times, however, at least one new union was gaining strength in the 1960s and 1970s. During that period, the United Farm Workers of America (UFWA), led by Cesar Chavez, organized Hispanic and Filipino migrant farm workers in California and Arizona. Utilizing both labor strikes and boycotts, the UFWA eventually won collective bargaining agreements from California grape and lettuce growers. In 1971, the UFWA joined the AFL-CIO.

1980–Present

In 1981, organized labor suffered a major setback when President Ronald Reagan responded to a federal air traffic controllers strike by firing the striking employees. By illustrating the ability of employers to recruit replacement workers, this episode chilled unions from calling for future labor strikes. Instead, unions in the 1980s and 1990s looked increasingly to legislatures for protection in such areas as minimum wage, family and medical leave, workplace safety, and pension protection. However, organized labor suffered a major legislative defeat in 1994 when the North American Free Trade Agreement was implemented despite heavy union lobbying against it. Since then, however, unions have successfully sponsored campaigns for a Living Wage, which have been enacted by several local governments throughout the United States.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bernstein, Irving. The Lean Years. Cambridge, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, Riverside, 1960.

Bernstein, Irving. A Caring Society: The New Deal, the Worker, and the Great Depression. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985.

Craver, Charles B. Can Unions Survive?: The Rejuvenation of the American Labor Movement. New York: New York University Press, 1993.

Frankfurter, Felix, and Nathan Greene. The Labor Injunction. New York: MacMillan, 1930.

Geoghan, Thomas. Which Side are You On? Being for Labor when Labor is Flat on its Back. New York: Plume, 1992.

Goldfield, Michael. The Decline of Organized Labor in the United States. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1987.

Zieger, Robert H. American Workers, American Unions, 2d ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

LindaDynan

See alsoAmerican Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations ; International Brotherhood of Teamsters ; United Automobile Workers of America andvol. 9:Ford Men Beat and Rout Lewis ; The Pullman Strike and Boycott .

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Trade Unions

TRADE UNIONS

The trade union movement in Russia had its origins in the strike movements of the nineteenth century. Labor organizations, originally modeled on village institutions, spontaneously formed around particular grievances, but proved temporary in nature. More permanent labor representation in the form of delegates, starostas, eventually took hold at the factory, local, and industry levels. By the late nineteenth century local broad-based organizations gave way to associations by industry or occupation, along with the adoption of more institutionalized negotiation methods between labor and capital.

Trade unions first gained legal recognition after the Revolution of 1905. Unions adopted principles of class identity (membership being restricted to workers) and independence from state institutions and political parties. During the period immediately following the Revolution, attempts to establish central labor organizations produced both soviets of workers' delegates and trade union councils, which sought to unite extant unions and provide support for new ones. Unions remained relatively weak, with union activity declining significantly during World War I in response to governmental restrictions.

The period from 1917 to 1920 saw the reemergence of the old trade unions in competition with autonomous factory-level worker councils. Unions eventually secured power over the councils, but only as they underwent their own transformation. As a result, three features were to characterize trade unions throughout the Soviet period: branch unionism, union subordination to both the state and Bolshevik Party, and the assumption of dual functions on the part of all unions. This meant that every employee in a particular industry or branch of the economy belonged to one union and that trade unions as state organizations were to fulfill a twin purpose: to mobilize workers to meet production targets and to defend workers' rights, as defined by the state, against arbitrary managerial actions. The particular methods employed by unions shifted over time, with emphasis on discipline and punishment in the 1930s giving way to positive incentives and greater job protection rights by the 1950s.

At the enterprise level, union activity was integrated into a larger triangular relationship, known as the union-management-party troika. The union worked chiefly with management to increase labor productivity. Its control over the distribution of nonwage benefits to the workforce ensured labor cooperation, while its control over the grievance process and its mandatory participation in all personnel decisions provided the means to defend workers' legal rights. Simultaneously, the union coordinated efforts with party officials to direct the cultural life of the factory. In this capacity, the union acted as a transmission belt between party and society, orientating the workforce to the goals of the state.

At the national level, the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions (AUCCTU) was the supreme agency within a complex trade union bureaucracy. In its role as administrator, it maintained control over two parallel hierarchical structures, one based on branch-level union committees, with the central committee of each union as the leading institution, and an all-union hierarchy organized geographically, with the republican all-union councils as the governing bodies. The primary union agency, the factory-level committee, was responsible to both groups. Union resources came from three critical sources: membership dues, the national social insurance fund, and considerable property holdings associated with the social and welfare benefits distributed to the workforce.

The post-Soviet period has been marked by two important developments: the plurality of trade union organizations and the declining power of unions in general. Alternative trade unions, organized along occupational and professional lines, have challenged the monopoly of the traditional union bureaucracy, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), the successor to AUCCTU. Although FNPR remains by far the dominant institution, the alternative unions function as catalysts for organizational change. In addition, trade unions have lost considerable power, deepening their subordination in practice to management and the state. Declining union membership and the loss of income and important administrative duties have undermined the traditional base of union power.

See also: trade statutes of 1653 and 1667

bibliography

Ashwin, Sarah, and Clarke, Simon. (2003). Russian Trade Unions and Industrial Relations in Transition. New York: Palgrave Macmillan Press.

Ruble, Blair. (1981). Soviet Trade Unions: Their Development in the 1970s. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Turin, S. P. (1968). From Peter the Great to Lenin: A History of the Russian Labour Movement with Special Reference to Trade Unionism. New York: A. M. Kelley Press.

Carol Clark

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CLARK, CAROL. "Trade Unions." Encyclopedia of Russian History. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 28 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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trade unions

trade unions, retaining some of the benefit functions of the old craft guilds, emerged in the 18th cent. as conflicts between capital and labour increased and state protection collapsed before the rise of the factory system. More intensive exploitation occurred in the factory, but factory workers were in a minority for most of the period 1780–1900, and skilled handicraft societies set the style of unionism. They were subject to prosecution under English common law as combinations in restraint of trade. Fear of revolution led to the combination laws of 1799–1800; this legislation was ineffective, forcing unions underground. Eventually, unions were given legal recognition under the Act of 1825. Most unions were local, small, and based on public houses or ‘houses of call’, but some of them had a primitive national organization.

Owenite utopianism stimulated the rise of general unions. Older unionism existed alongside attempts to found a Grand National Consolidated Trade Union; when this grandiose organization collapsed in 1834–5, continuity was maintained by ‘the aristocracy of labour’. After the depression of the early 1840s national unions of skilled trades either revived or were founded. There is little justification for using the term ‘New Model Unionism’ about the formation of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (1851); there was no radical reorganization and no new characteristics. The ASE was merely one successful example of a process proceeding from the 1820s. Skilled unions had always insisted upon efficient organization, strikes being a last resort, collective bargaining the norm, and death, sickness, or unemployment benefits provided. Trades councils were created by unions; from the London Trades Council emerged the Trades Union Congress (1868).

Legal recognition and protection of funds became an issue after the Hornby v. Close decision revealed that unions lacked these basic rights; hence the pressure for the Acts passed in the 1870s. The revival of socialism in the 1880s coincided with depressions and the creation of new unions for the semi-skilled and the unskilled, paying lower entry fees and prepared to be militant. Membership of unions rose from about 750,000 in 1888 to over 4 million by 1913. Individual unions increased in size. Some grew organically, others as a result of amalgamation. Industrial strife was widespread in the years before 1914, provoked by falling living standards and a growing radicalism associated with syndicalist ideas. The Triple Alliance of transport workers, miners, and railwaymen was in existence by 1914 and had a strategy of sympathy strikes in place. Thus the ground was drawn for the sharp class conflicts of the 1920s including the General Strike of 1926. Trade union membership declined during the Great Slump, only reviving in the late 1930s.

The Second World War (1939–45) led to the direction of labour and full employment. Trade union membership increased from about 6,250,000 in 1939 to nearly 8 million in 1945. By 1979 there were about 13,500,000 members or 58 per cent of those in work. More industrial unions were created at the expense of traditional craft unions, but demarcation disputes and unofficial strikes were frequent.

After 1979 trade union membership fell to under 10,250,000 by 1988 or 37.6 per cent of the labour force, and the number of unions declined 453 in 1979 to 330 in 1987. Hostile legislation designed to remove union power over the labour market beginning with Acts of 1980 and 1982 was a feature of the policies of Thatcherite Conservatism. Single union agreements with ‘no strike’ clauses were common, as plant bargaining began to replace national negotiations. A significant change was the Labour Party's distancing itself from the union movement, with which it had been closely associated since its birth.

John Butt

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JOHN CANNON. "trade unions." The Oxford Companion to British History. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. 28 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Trade Union

TRADE UNION

An organization of workers in the same skilled occupation or related skilled occupations who act

together to secure for all members favorable wages, hours, and other working conditions.

Trade unions in the United States were first organized in the early nineteenth century. The main purpose of a trade union is to collectively bargain with employers for wages, hours, and working conditions. Until the 1930s trade unions were at a severe disadvantage with management, mainly because few laws recognized the right of workers to organize. With the passage of the National Labor Relations Act (wagner act) of 1935 (29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq.), the right of employees to form, join, or aid labor unions was recognized by the federal government.

Trade unions are entitled to conduct a strike against employers. A strike is usually the last resort of a trade union, but when negotiations have reached an impasse, a strike may be the only bargaining tool left for employees.

There are two principal types of trade unions: craft unions and industrial unions. Craft unions are composed of workers performing a specific trade, such as electricians, carpenters, plumbers, or printers. Industrial union workers include all workers in a specific industry, no matter what their trade, such as automobile or steel workers. In the United States, craft and industrial unions were represented by different national labor organizations until 1955. The craft unions that dominated the american federation of labor (AFL) opposed organizing industrial workers.

During the 1930s several AFL unions seeking a national organization of industrial workers formed the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO). The CIO aggressively organized millions of industrial workers who labored in automobile, steel, and rubber plants. In 1938 the AFL expelled the unions that had formed the CIO. The CIO then formed its own organization and changed its name to Congress of Industrial Organizations. In 1955 the AFL and CIO merged into a single organization, the AFL-CIO.

Membership in U.S. trade unions has fallen since the 1950s, as the number of workers in the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy has steadily declined. Union membership in 1995 comprised just 14.9 percent of the workforce, compared with a high of 34.7 percent in 1954.

cross-references

Collective Bargaining; Labor Law.

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trade union

trade union Any organization of employees established in order to substitute, or attempt to substitute, collective bargaining for individual bargaining in the labour-market. Unions seek generally to ensure that earnings and conditions are governed by rules applied consistently across their membership—although many unions also have broader social and political aims. Some are also professional associations.

It is customary to classify unions into types, according to the constituency from which they recruit, in the following way: craft (exclusive to skilled workers); occupational (all workers in an occupation regardless of industry); industrial (all workers in an industry regardless of occupation); general (amalgamations of occupational and industrial organization); and enterprise (all workers in a single company or plant). However, in practice, the typology breaks down in the face of the complexities of actual trade unionism. Numerous controversies surround unions. Can they, in the long run, raise labour's income-share in the face of market forces? How far are they an expression of a limited trade-union consciousness as against a common class consciousness oriented towards the pursuit of the interests of the labour movement as a whole? How are they affected by the particular goals, traditions, and political culture of their leaders, and of the rank-and-file? Do they embody an inherent contradiction between their democratic or populist origin and the oligarchy necessary to effective leadership? There are extensive sociological literatures addressing all of these questions. See also CORPORATE SOCIETY; LENIN; MICHELS, ROBERT; PROFESSIONS; UNIONATENESS.

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GORDON MARSHALL. "trade union." A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998. Encyclopedia.com. 28 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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trade union

trade union Group of workers organized for the purpose of improving wages and conditions of work. The first trade unions were founded in Britain around the time of the Industrial Revolution. Although some craft and agricultural unions developed before industrialization, the growth of trade unionism paralleled the growth of industry. In 1825, trade unions were given restricted legality in Britain. In 1871, the Trades Union Act put the unions on a firm legal basis and, over the next 150 years, the movement grew steadily. Their rights were progressively curbed in the 1980s through Conservative legislation under Margaret Thatcher. In the USA, the labour unions and their members have generally accepted the capitalist system. The movement had become firmly established by 1886 with the founding of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). The AFL primarily represented skilled workers, and it was not until the creation (1930) of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) that unskilled labour gained some form of representation. In 1955, the two organizations merged to form the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). See also Tolpuddle Martyrs

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Trade Union

TRADE UNION


The transformation of economic enterprise that began after the American Revolution (17751783) was the major cause for the development of U.S. labor's most significant institution: permanent trade unions. With the rise of U.S. industry came the rise of a management class seeking to pay lower wages. During the late 1700s working men with trades (carpenters, shoemakers, typesetters, cabinetmakers, machinists, masons, coopers, tailors) created organizations to conduct their struggles, known often as "associations" or "societies." The membership of these early unions were confined to journeymen of a single craft, and they joined together not only to obtain better wages for themselves, but also to keep out of industry inferior untrained workmen known as "runaway apprentices" who worked for lower wages than the skilled tradesman or craftsman.

In 1886, a national organization, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was created and rose to dominate the U.S. labor movement for the next 50 years. It was a federation of most of the early trade and craft unions scattered throughout the many states of the union, bringing together under the umbrella of the AFL most of the trade and craft unions. The AFL, a consolidation of separate trade unions, was first led by the father of the U.S. labor movement, Samuel Gompers (18501924). The focus of the AFL was largely aimed at short-term objectives, like higher pay and shorter hours of work. The AFL maintained that trade unions should restrict their membership to skilled and qualified craftsmen in specific trades, believing that a trade union composed of many different kinds of workers, including unskilled laborers, would lack the cohesiveness essential to hard-hitting business-like unionism. Trade unions ignored unskilled workers in the mass-production industries who eventually were unionized by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). In the 1960s, the AFL and the CIO pursued a cautious merger, under the name AFL-CIO.

See also: American Federation of Labor, Congress of Industrial Organizations, Samuel Gompers, Labor Unionism

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trade union

trade un·ion • n. an organized association of workers in a trade, group of trades, or profession, formed to protect and further their rights and interests.

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"trade union." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. Encyclopedia.com. 28 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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trade union

trade union: see union, labor.

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