Labor Relations What Changes Essay

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CIO membership began to decline and it lost its dynamic leaders and organizers.

The CIO eventually found itself deep into civil war that was mainly between non-communist affiliates and communist led unions. CIO lost its relevance because of the civil war because it could not live to its mission of organizing the unorganized and empowering the dispossessed. Trust that CIO enjoyed because of its independence was eroded because it was argued that it had accepted its place within a system of capitalist hierarchy. It soon merged with AFL to form AFL-CIO (Whatley, 1993).

What generational aspects (i.e., baby boomers, Generation X, Generation Y) have influenced labor unions and will continue to do so?

Generation Y'ers were born between 1977 and 1994. Over 70 million Americans belong to this generation. They are three times more than generation X'ers. They are ethnically diverse. They are influenced by their peers and media and are technologically advanced. Studies show that few generation Y members are members of unions. In fact, their involvement in unions has drastically declined. The decline is attributed to their belief that the economy rewards employers that have more flexible workers. Studies indicate that only 6% of men and 4% of women under the age of 25 belong to unions (Anonymous, 2012).

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This explains why unions have continued to decline in the United States. This is supported by studies that have shown that union membership fell from 35 per cent in 1945 to 30 per cent in 1970. This was attributed to general unemployment, increasing international competition, and movement of industry to non-union South and non-rural areas. The members of generation Y may be having a feeling that unions have very limited impact on wages and working conditions for most American workers. Until that time when employers will stop resisting union's activities to allow unions to thrive, and when both public and private employers would allow workers to freely join unions, many, just like, members of generation Y will be reluctant to join unions.

Essay on Labor Relations What Changes Are Assignment

For unions, where were they, where are they, and where do they need to go to remain or regain an active and viable organization in the 21st century?

Guilds are the oldest labor unions. These guilds united artisans and their employees. Guilds also regulated production by setting minimum prices and quality. They also capped employment, wages, and output. They however protected the status quo of the masters. Apprentices had to advance to master's status to benefit from guild restrictions. The guilds faded in the early modern period due to wage earners resolve to seek a collective regulation of their individual employment. Unions began to organize property-less workers working for capitalists. They began clamoring for equality and the rights of the commoners. They also wanted to fight new aristocracy. These labor movements wanted citizens to have a say in the management of public affairs.

Unions that fought for the rights of the white workers reserved good jobs for their members. Such unions exploited nonwhites and women. Crafts unions were subsequently formed with a view to furthering its members' courses and fighting interest of other workers. They were not receptive to alliances formed along class lines, those uniting workers on basis of lack of property. They had a very narrow strategy limited to uniting workers with same skill against capitalists and workers in different trades. They were capable of financing long strikes partly due to their monopoly of knowledge of the work process. They also had a strong bargaining position because of the alliances they formed with other craftsmen. Their action was limited to organizing small local strikes and withdrawal of labor by a few workers critical to production. They offered very little to the masses. In 1880 United States, there were 160, 000 union members. Of these, 120, 000 belonged to craft unions with the rest being members of industrial unions.

KOL became an international movement after it had crafted in Philadelphia craft workers (Blewett, 1988). Their membership reached a record 20, 000 in 1881. KOL believed that the only way of overcoming social problems was by extending democracy in the work place. It welcomed farmers and other employers apart from liquor dealers, gamblers, bankers, stock manipulators, and lawyers to join. They bargained with employers, conducted boycotts, and calling on its members to go on strike to demand better pay and better working conditions. KOL nearly collapsed in 1886. AFL succeeded KOL. It was formed in 1881. It championed narrow interests of craft workers. Its membership shot in late 1890s up to 1904 (Rachleff, 1984). Its membership mostly drawn from craft organizations despite the fact that half of the coal miners belonged to it in 1904. AFL membership doubled between 1915 and 1919 because the Wilson Administration endorsed unionization and collective bargaining in exchange for union support for the war effort (Friedman, 2000).

Employers however crashed nascent unions when federal support was cut short after the end of the war. AFL failure was due to its ineffective political strategy (Frank, 1994). Company unions were a familiar site in the 1920s. During economic recession, there was a decline in union membership. The National Industrial Recovery Act gave employees the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their choice. This made workers to rush into unions in large numbers. The greater majority were unskilled laborers.

Promise of state support was one of the reasons behind the surge in numbers. The federal did not do much to help in implementation of section 7(a) of NIRA. Employers subsequently ignored the law. National labor Relations Act that was enacted in 1935 championed for employees right to self-organization and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choice. The Act made it a requirement that union representatives had to be elected. Employers had to bargain in good faith with the workers' chosen representatives. During the WWII, the federal government supported unions to gain support for the war effort. Because of the war, there was no unemployment. The National War Labor Board minimized labor disputes that could disrupt war production by instituting labor truce. Union membership grew from 3.5 to 10.2 million between 1935 and 1941. WWII promoted unions and social change (Whatley, 1993).

After WWII, unions began declining in the United States. Amendments to Wagner Act in particular contributed to this. After the amendment, employers and state officials were given new powers over strikers and unions. Union leaders had to sign non-Communist affidavit as requisite for union participation in NLRB-sponsored elections. It contributed to the merger between CIO and AFL to form AFL-CIO. 1950 was the golden age for American unions. Unions could bargain with leading firms like auto manufacturers. Contracts were negotiated. There were cordial workplace relations. There were regulations to be followed when promotions or lay-offs were to be effected. Workers had avenues for voicing their grievances before neutral arbiters. Wages were reviewed annually. Unions were also entitled to benefit programs like medical and dental insurance, paid holidays and vacations, and pensions (Whatley, 1993).

Unions have since declined from 1980s. This is attributed to rising unemployment, increasing international competition, and the activities in the South that undermined bargaining positions of American unions. In the 1990s unionization rate fell to below 14 per cent.

To remain an active and a viable organization in the 21st century, unions have to ensure that they genuinely work towards improvement of the working conditions of their members. Whether private or public, they have to ensure that their members are remunerated based on their expertise, experience, and the number of hours spent working. The unions must also ensure that labor laws are favorable and do away with loopholes that employers exploit to resist unions thrive.

What other external dynamics are impacting labor unions? For example, how does the global workforce impact union strategies?

It is in public domain that requisites for joining labor unions in the United States were: one had to be white, male, and a citizen. Decision by immigrant workers to join labor unions like Communication Workers of America, the Service Employees International Union Local 434b impacted these unions' strategies. The American labor market is no longer predominantly white male citizens who were the hallmark of organized labor and symbols of United States economic prosperity. Falling wages and disappearance of middle class factory has been occasioned by differences along class lines.

Global economy has eliminated worker's individual economic prosperity that was associated with factory work. Involvement of immigrants into technical and service sectors has completely changed the complexion of industries unions into more organized entities. They have changed their organizational structures and ideological practices to avoid becoming obsolete. Because of diversity of the unions, new leaders have been voted in and mandated to change strategic and political trajectories with a view to addressing diversity of the U.S. workers. Elected leaders under the banner New Voice Campaign (NVC) promised widespread organizational change by building a representative and diverse union that connected to the workers'… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Labor Relations What Changes.  (2012, August 24).  Retrieved January 24, 2021, from

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"Labor Relations What Changes."  24 August 2012.  Web.  24 January 2021. <>.

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"Labor Relations What Changes."  August 24, 2012.  Accessed January 24, 2021.