Labor Unions
labor union is as defined in the dictionary, an organization of wage earners
formed for the purpose of serving the members\' interests with respect to wages
and working conditions. Today there are about 16 million workers in the U.S.
that belong to a labor union. The pressure upon the employers to raise wages and
improve working conditions in a major goal of the labor unions. Labor unions
have been around for a long time. The earlier unions were called craft unions,
consisting of only a couple members who worked in the same craft. The way unions
negotiate for an employment contract is by collective bargaining. Collective
bargaining is negotiation between the representatives of organized workers and
their employer or employers to determine wages, hours, rules, and working
conditions. When in collective bargaining, the unions represent its members in
negotiations rather than have each worker negotiate individually with an
employer. In order for the collective bargaining process can start a union shop
must be organized. A union shop is a business or industrial establishment whose
employees are required to be union members or to agree to join the union within
a specified time after being hired. Once a union shop is formed the union will
look to negotiate a labor contract, which is a written agreement between the
employer and the union representing employees. The labor contract sets the
conditions of employment. Although many union contracts are worked out through
collective bargaining, there are times when this process fails to bring
agreement between the union and management. In looking to achieve the union’s
goals, labor unions may use a variety of tactics. For example: striking,
picketing, boycotting, slowdown, and in some cases illegal methods. A strike is
when workers stop working for the purpose of gaining concessions from
management. Strike is labor’s most powerful weapon because of the financial
loss imposed upon the employer. The downfall to a strike is that is that it also
costs participating workers a loss in income. Picketing is similar to a strike;
it takes place when workers march outside a business carrying signs. The main
objective of picketing is to discourage workers from entering the workplace. A
union boycott is a refusal to buy services or goods from a business whose
workers are on strike. Unions tell their members to tell their friends and
family to boycott the products of the company. Unions also try to get the
general public involved and support their cause. When there is a boycott on a
certain brand name the boycott is called a "primary boycott". If there is a
boycott on a store because they sell a certain brand name this is called a"secondary boycott". A slowdown is when workers, on purpose, decrease their
output in order to force concessions from their employer. Because the workers
are not on strike workers can still collect their pay. Some Unions have resorted
to tactics that are illegal. There are three main tactics. The first on is
secondary boycott, which has been discussed previously. The second is strong-arm
methods were unions hire thugs to force management into accepting the union
demands. The third method is called jurisdictional strike is one caused by
dispute between two unions over which one can represent certain workers.

Management sometime will put pressure on unions when there is a breakdown in
labor-management negotiations. Some important management tactics are lockouts,
injunctions, and strikebreakers. Lockout happens when management shuts down a
workplace in hope of bringing the workers to the companies’ terms. Sometimes a
court will issue an injunction to halt a strike. Injunctions are very uncommon.

Strikebreakers occur when management hire new people to replace the people that
are on strike. Strikebreaking, in my opinion is the best way to handle a strike.

If people don’t want to work they shouldn’t. There are peaceful ways
decisions can be solved without strikes or lockouts. For example: fact-finding,
mediation, and arbitration. When there are labor disputes, the government might
assign a "fact-finding board". This board investigates the problem and
suggests a solution. In mediation a third party is brought in to analyze the
situation and offers a solution. In the arbitration method of settling labor
problems a third party is brought in and the management and Union must abide by
the solution as set by the third party.


"What is a Labor Union?" Antell, Gerson.

Economics: Institutions and Analysis. New York. ASP, 1997 The World Book

Encyclopedia, World Book L 12. U.S.A., 1998