I would begin this paper with a definition of what labor union is. According to my source, MSN Encarta, a labor union is an “association of workers that seeks to improve the economic and social well-being of its members through group action.” Basically, labor union is a group formed by workers to protect their rights and interests from the company from which they are a part. Of course the demand a union may ask may vary from one company to another. However, some of the usual line a union usually asks for its members includes provision of benefits for its members.
So what does provision of benefits entail? From the word itself it aims to ensure benefits for its member. Such benefits may include assurance against unemployment of an employee, health benefits in case of sickness, insurance for injury and the like. In most countries, the state assures that the employees get such and such benefits.
Another common theme from different unions is their way of negotiating for a higher salary once they find the need to have a higher salary from before. The term used for the said negotiation is collective bargaining. Another common term between unions is industrial action. In industrial action the workers may decide to organize strikes when the company they are in decides not to meet their demands.
Moving on, there is said to be two different and thus at odds views in terms of trade unions. The first one is restrictive and thus the only members they accept are those whose line of work or expertise is the same as theirs. The second one aims to unite all workers to better the state of affairs on their working field. Of the two views I think that the second one is more likely to achieve their ends as compared to the first one.
I said that because should a revolution be needed in order for things to happen their way then they can win by numbers alone. However, I think that the first one is more likely to share stronger ties than the second one on the basis that since they are restrictive and accept only their own, then understanding each other would be no hard task. Surely since they share more things in common then each one is more likely to understand each others pain and the drive to pursue their goals would be more fiery than that of the second one.
Now, unions may seem to be very common nowadays but for many years unions are considered illegal in most countries. However, through time, regardless of the efforts put upon by employers in order for union organizations to fail, the voice of the workers prevailed.
There are many unions formed nationwide and the question to be asked is whether global scale union differs in anyway from that of national scale. As an answer, the American Federation of Labor (AFL), founded by Samuel Gompers, aims to form a “pure and simple” unionism that gives prime importance to collective bargaining in order to reach their goals. The AFL is an example of a union in a nationwide scale. Now, union structures, politics and the like vary from one country to another. Unions may be organized into three kinds, craft unionism, general unionism, and industrial unionism.
The said unions are usually separated into locals and then they would eventually be fused together into national federations. The said federations would then join the forces of international unions like the International Union Trade Confederation. I think one difference unions in national scale may have from those of international scale is that the demands of the unions in the national scale, though not completely alike in every way to that of other unions within a certain country, their differences is not so far-off to the point the they would fail to meet in the middle. Unions on the international scale on the other hand could be very different from country to country that the hope to reach a compromise may not be possible.
For example, in Germany the only form of union which they consider to be legal are open shop unions wherein such is not the case on other countries. As another example, unions in the United States, unlike from other countries, gives primary importance for collective bargaining to better their salary or even to represent members of their unions should the management decides to violate one of their rights. On other countries the focus of their unions is different from that of the United States. However there are still global trade unions that aim to bridge the gap of different unions from one country to another, such unions is World Federation of Trade Unions.
I think that the major role unions’ play in our society today is to protect the right of the workers. Unions assure that the workers are not cheated out of their salary, benefits and the like. I think it is a good thing that the workers decided to get together to get what is their due.
Having successful unions on our society today made me think about the line Marx used decades ago, “all workers unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains”. Surely, what Marx said held true to our society today. And though the Marxists goal is not entirely complete I can say that at least some of their goal came into being such as the getting together of workers which can be seen in different kind of unions nowadays.
However, there are still criticisms thrown upon labor unions. Some critics claim that the aim of unions is simply to benefit the workers inside the company even at the expense of the “outsider workers”, consumers, and the stockholders. These critics argue that unions put those who are unemployed more unlikely to get a job. As for my opinion, I believe that there is some truth in what these critics have in mind. However, such things could be resolved by peaceful talks regarding the things both parties supports.
I also believe that the government can address such problems such as unemployment by assuring that every citizen gets employed without any discrimination. As to the fact that there are workers who cannot get the line of work they want then I say that such things are facts of life. Nobody really gets what s/he wants every time. I believe that if one works hard for that thing s/he wants then eventually s/he would be able to attain his or her goal. Thus, they should keep the blame away from labor unions regarding things of that sort.