The Decline of the Union
Unions were created with the everyday worker in mind, an opposite to the previous mindset where the employer ruled his employee and the employee had no recourse. Unions helped pave the way for many of the current rights we have in place for American workers today; such as the length of the workday and weekly hours, child labor laws, minimum salary requirements, workers compensation and safe working conditions. With so much advancement in the American workforce because of Unions, it is interesting that there is a steady decline in Union membership in America. There are many factors that contribute to the decline, such as change in workforce, outsourcing jobs, right to work states, economic interests and political opposition. Sadly though, a continuing decline combined with poor economic conditions could one day result in the loss of Union’s altogether, which could forever change the face of American labor. Union’s are a necessary component for the American laborer to protect their rights and protect them from the interests of industry. The threatening loss of Unions nationally threatens the rights of future laborer, which calls for immediate change to prevent this grave future.
Unions started early within the history of America, shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed with skilled craftsmen whom formed guilds. The guilds were groups of workers who had the same trade skills who formed groups to protect common interests. As the Industrial Revolution powered through America, modern unions began to form, “to counter balance the wealth and power of a very few industrialists, as well as to battle the widespread poverty, misery and abuse of most workers,” ("Brief History," 2010, para. 7). Unions became a vital part of American history as the common man joined forces to rise up united to establish and protect their rights as workers. This fight was against 12-14 hour work days for little pay, and jobs that were often performed in unsafe working conditions. There were no limits on hour’s worked, standard pay, age restrictions, working conditions, or compensation for injuries while working. As the workers banned together, many times in protest, their efforts were minimal in influencing change. The workers voices were drowned out by a government ruled in favor of the industries and at times by police action would shut down protests, “such as the Great Uprising of 1877 and the eight hour days strike of 1886,” (Budd, 2010, p. 77). The Clayton Act of 1914 updated the Sherman Anti-Trust Law which banned Trusts and Monopolies, from being was being applied to Unions. The Clayton Act stated that, "the labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce," ("Brief History," 2010, para. 10). This deceleration paved the way for the modern union as we see today and humanized the worker; allowing for many laws and regulations to follow that would turn labor in favor of the laborers. By the time of The Wagner Act of 1935 laws were now being passed to help and protect Unions and Union Members. The Wagner Act of 1935 stated that “Employees shall have the right of self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities, for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection,”(Michigan State University [MSU], 2005, para. 1). Because of the rise and protection of Unions, workers were able to gain many rights such as the eight hour work day, minimum wage regulations, child labor laws, overtime pay, safe working conditions, and workman’s compensation. Not only were these rights granted they also won the right of having these rights enforced and back by the government.
The patchwork of defines labor today in America is comprised of many different workers with different needs for Union representation. There are different types of Unions in America each...
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