Labor Unions Are Associations Term Paper

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Moreover, unions have placed greater emphasis on organizing drives for new members, and although they have been successful in organizing government employees, they have had less success in recruiting office workers in the rapidly expanding services sector (Union pp). A major problem is demographic, since the fastest growing parts of the labor force, such as women, service industries, and college-educated employees, are generally the most reluctant to organize (Union pp). Unlike the European union movements, organized labor in the United States has avoided the formation of a political party and has remained within the framework of the two-party system (Union pp). By the mid-1990's, the number of strikes in the United States had reached its lowest level in fifty years, however, by the end of the decade, a tighter labor market under a more aggressive union leadership led to a resurgence of strikes against such major companies as Northwest Airlines, General Motors, and United Parcel Service (Union pp).

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Although generally small in numbers, organized labor in the Third World has played a disproportionately large role in political developments within those countries (Union pp). Numerous union movements in the underdeveloped countries, especially in Asia and Africa, have risen on the wave of nationalism, and have led anti-colonial movements toward political independence (Union pp). In fact, leaders of many newly independent nations have risen largely due to the support of the workers they have organized (Union pp). In Latin America, labor unions are also a powerful force, constituting as they do the most important mass political organizations in the nations of that region (Union pp).

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Internationally world trade unionism was split after 1949 between two rival organizations, the World Federation of Trade Unions, WTFU, a largely Communist organization set up in 1945, and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, ICFTU, which was founded in 1949 by member unions that had withdrawn from the WTFU in protest against its Communist domination (Union pp). The international federations are recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organizations, UNESCO, and there is close cooperation between the ICFTU and UNESCO within the field of education (Union pp). The International Labor Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations, of which some of its goals include raising living standards, improving working conditions, gaining recognition of the right to collective bargaining, and the protection of workers' health (Union pp).

In April 2003, it was reported that after reviewing a thousand studies on the effects of unions and collective bargaining, the World Bank revealed that a country's economy may fare better if large numbers of workers are unionized (Unions pp). Although the World Bank has in the past been rather hostile to trade unions, the new study concluded that "high unionization rates can lead to lower unemployment and inflation rates, higher productivity and faster adjustment to economic shocks" (Unions pp). According to the report, workers who belong to unions earn higher wages, work fewer hours, receive more training, have longer job tenure, and can fight discrimination and close the wage gap between men and women (Unions pp).

The Mauritian governments have, for several years, accepted loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank under specific conditions (Collen pp). However, in December 2001, in response to the "strings," opposition political parties, 300 odd trade unions, 550 women's organizations, clubs and grassroots political activists stated that that will stop the governments from implementing them (Collen pp). Although there are still universal old-age pensions from the age of 60, the Government held a conference on pensions with the World Bank and supposedly "independent individuals and organizations," however the left party, Lalit, exposed them as being in cahoots with each other and the conference lost all credibility, causing the Government to back-peddle (Collen pp). This type of spectacular result was mainly achieved because of the existence of the All Workers' Conference, AWC, which succeeded in uniting every union at shop-steward level for five years, between 1995 and 2000 (Collen pp).

In 2002, it was reported that trade unions in many countries, including Britain, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Canada, South Korea, and the United States, are questioning their long-standing political alliances and priorities (Davies pp). Dean Mighell, the Victoria electricians' union leader, left the Australian Labor Party, ALP, to join the Greens, and was followed by Peter Marshall, state secretary of the United Firefighters Union (Davies pp). Then the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, with some 160,000 members, took the dispute to the federal arena (Davies pp). As in Britain, the party leadership talk of modernization and the unions complain that they are ignored, as old left-wing allies embrace privatization and new corporate friends (Davies pp).

The AFL-CIO drew up a Statement of Principles for Public Officials for candidates to sign as part of the endorsement process, and also produced fifty questions in sixteen subject areas, from workers' rights and the World Trade Organization to privatization and the minimum wage, all as a tool for evaluating candidates (Davies pp). Former Teamsters official, Andy Banks, says, "Many unions are adopting a more strategic approach to political expenditure. Rather than just handing a check to the Democrats, unions see it as more effective to spend their money on selected candidates or specific campaigns" (Davies pp).

Union leaders want greater independent action from organized labor, and according to AFL-CIO political director, Steve Rosenthal, American unions must become more aggressive in pursuit of worker rights and the election of a pro-labor Congress, and if "that means supporting certain Republican candidates, so be it" (Davies pp).

The unions in South Korea have recently created their own party, the Democratic Labor Party, which has become the third-largest party in just two years (Davies pp). And the South African unions have been in a continual battle with the government over privatization and other pro-market policies, while German is showing signs of strains in the relationship between the unions and the Social Democrats (Davies pp). In Canada, the New Democratic Party, NDP, faces a challenge from the New Politics Initiative which is a grouping of NDP and non-NDP members calling for the creation of a new party of the left that includes a number of prominent union officials (Davies pp). In Britain, most of the public attention has focused on whether the unions will disaffiliate from Labor (Davies pp). It is important to note that major unions are questioning their old assumptions, and as social democracy worldwide has embraced market politics, so the unions are demanding value for money from traditional allies and a better return on their investment (Davies pp).

In 2004, a Washington Post article reported that labor experts are calling Unite Here, the newly merged union, is one of the most outspoken and toughest unions under the AFL-CIO umbrella (Joyce E01). For example, Unite, which represented textile workers before its merger, took an unusual tack in negotiation on behalf of airline laundry workers with Royal Airline Laundry Services (Joyce E01). Workers reported that they were being asked to increase productivity by repackaging used blankets and headphones without laundering them first, so Unite's president, Bruce S. Raynor, started a campaign in late 2000 in which air passengers were given a test tube and swab to find out whether bacteria was crawling on the blankets they cuddled (Joyce E01). Airlines called Royal and begged officials to settle with the union, and according to Kate L. Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University, what followed was a contract that provided workers with more pay and better working conditions (Joyce E01). Said Bronfenbrenner, "They are creative, aggressive, and willing to do what it takes" (Joyce E01).

Although many believe that trade union have gone the way of the dinosaurs, according to David Ransom in a December 2001 article in "New Internationalist," "the truth is that trade unions are still very much alive" (Ransom pp). Ransom believes that not only are they still alive but that in the future they are going to matter even more, because so long as people have to sell their labor to someone else in order to survive, the "freedom of association" at work will be fought for and celebrated (Ransom pp). Ransom believes that when they go to work, human beings will always aspire to a measure of dignity, self-expression and democracy at their workplaces (Ransom pp).

During the early years of the Industrial Revolution, trade unions in Britain were legislated away by the Combination Acts, and in a paranoid political atmosphere and amid the air of rebellion in the lower orders, employees were prohibited from even thinking to 'combine' against their employers, on threat of arrest, imprisonment and deportation (Ransom pp). Ransom points out that this was the crudest attempt to make freedom of association in Britain entirely subject to the sanction of the state, and it did not work (Ransom pp). The… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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