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What is a labor union?

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What is a labor union?

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  • Jan. 19, 2005
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To understand labor unions today, one has to understand the history behind them. During the early period of industrialization, misery existed among workers. Entire families labored in mines and factories. Organizations paid the barest subsistence wages, claiming that workers were lazy and would stop working if they were paid better. Workdays were long, often 14 hours or more, holidays were few and far between and working conditions were poor. The early days of unions were met with bitter struggles with employers and the government supported the employers' interests. During this period of rapid technological evolutions, the union was outlawed and organizers were harassed and or jailed. Due to union organizers, the unions finally gained a foothold and were eventually recognized and accepted in the work force.

As the unions such as Knights of Labor 1869 and American Federation of Labor 1886 attained power, the overall conditions of worker improved, thus becoming a voice for the workers as well as protecting its members from unfair treatment and assisting in resolving grievances. As the USA moved deeper into world industrialization, unions became a major economic and political force that was often critical to the success of politicians and business enterprise alike. But the strengthening of unions was not ultimately achieved until the government took an active role in union and management relationship, through the passing of National Labor Relation (Wagner Act) of 1935, that encourages growth of trade union and restrain management from interfering. Justification of the Wagner Act was based upon the notion that an individual employee has and equal bargaining power when compared with the position of the employer. (Coleman, Cressey 1993). The National Labor Relation (Wagner Act) of 1935, was then superseded by the passing of the Taft- Hartley Act. This (Act) guaranteed employees' bargaining rights and specifically forbade five unfair labor practices. (Ivancevich,...