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Basics of Labor Unions

By Edited Jun 10, 2014 1 0

A labor union is a group of people who work in the same or similar occupations, organized for the benefit of all employees in these occupations.  The major functions of a labor union are to recruit new members, to engage in collective bargaining, to support political candidates who are favorable to the union and to provide support services for members.

History

Labor unions are almost as old as America itself. While there were some unorganized unions for carpenters and other tradesmen during colonial time, labor unions really gained  national power in the 1820s when workers came together to change the workday from twelve hours to ten hours.  The eight hour standard today was implemented when the Nation Labor Union persuaded Congress in 1866. Since the 19th and 20th century when many new laws and principles were being implemented, unions have lost some power, and their membership has also gone down.

Pros and Cons

Pros

Labor unions can be beneficial in how they are better at negotiating for wages than individuals on their own. While the individual would probably fail and might get fired, unions would make the same requests and have the benefit of representing the entire workforce, with a greater chance of success. Unions have other benefits. They were formed to enhance a worker’s lifestyle and chances of employment. To do this, they may offer extra training for their members in the form of courses that directly improve them in their specific field or through general courses like first aid and workplace safety that enhance their capabilities in a different manner.

Cons

Labor unions are not always good though. They can raise wages and benefits to unrealistically high levels that are above what the market can sustain.  Strikes also make union members look greedy, especially if they are in a high-earning job compared to many other workers.

Modern Day Example

The NFL player union is an example of a well-known labor unions. It was founded in 1956.  Their purpose is to bargain with the owners of NFL teams while also assisting in public relations of many players. They represent current NFL players and retired NFL players. The union recently caused a lockout or withhold of play when they went through collective bargaining with the NFL owners where they asked for my pay and better benefits for the players.

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