Portal:Organized Labour
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Portal:Organized Labour
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Introduction

Image created by Walter Crane to celebrate International Workers' Day (May Day, 1 May), 1889. The image depicts workers from the five populated continents (Africa, Asia, Americas, Australia and Europe) in unity underneath an angel representing freedom, fraternity and equality.
A trade union (or a labor union in American English), often simply called a union, is an organization of workers who have come together to achieve common goals, such as protecting the integrity of their trade, improving safety standards, and attaining better wages, benefits (such as vacation, health care, and retirement), and working conditions through the increased bargaining power wielded by solidarity among workers. Trade unions typically fund the formal organization, head office, and legal team functions of the trade union through regular fees or union dues. The delegate staff of the trade union representation in the workforce are made up of workplace volunteers who are appointed by members in democratic elections.

The trade union, through an elected leadership and bargaining committee, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members (rank and file members) and negotiates labour contracts (collective bargaining) with employers. The most common purpose of these associations or unions is "maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment". This may include the negotiation of wages, work rules, occupational health and safety standards, complaint procedures, rules governing status of employees including promotions, just cause conditions for termination, and employment benefits.

Unions may organize a particular section of skilled workers (craft unionism), a cross-section of workers from various trades (general unionism), or attempt to organize all workers within a particular industry (industrial unionism). The agreements negotiated by a union are binding on the rank and file members and the employer and in some cases on other non-member workers. Trade unions traditionally have a constitution which details the governance of their bargaining unit and also have governance at various levels of government depending on the industry that binds them legally to their negotiations and functioning.

Originating in Great Britain, trade unions became popular in many countries during the Industrial Revolution. Trade unions may be composed of individual workers, professionals, past workers, students, apprentices or the unemployed. Trade union density, or the percentage of workers belonging to a trade union, is highest in the Nordic countries. (Full article...)

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The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) is the largest federation of unions in the United States. It is made up of fifty-five national and international unions, together representing more than 12 million active and retired workers. The AFL-CIO engages in substantial political spending and activism, typically in support of liberal or progressive policies.

The AFL-CIO was formed in 1955 when the AFL and the CIO merged after a long estrangement. Union membership in the USA peaked in 1979, when the AFL-CIO's affiliated unions had nearly twenty million members. From 1955 until 2005, the AFL-CIO's member unions represented nearly all unionized workers in the United States. Several large unions split away from AFL-CIO and formed the rival Change to Win Federation in 2005, although a number of those unions have since re-affiliated, and many locals of Change to Win are either part of or work with their local central labor councils. The largest unions currently in the AFL-CIO are the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) with approximately 1.7 million members, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), with approximately 1.4 million members, and United Food and Commercial Workers with 1.3 million members. (Full article...)

August in Labor History

Significant dates in labour history.



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Left pointing double angle quotation mark sh3.svg "The labor movement is organized upon a principle that the strong shall help the weak. The strength of a strong man is a prideful thing, but the unfortunate thing in life is that strong men do not remain strong. And it is just as true of unions and labor organizations as it is true of men and individuals. And whereas today the craft unions of this country may be able to stand upon their own feet and like mighty oaks stand before the gale, defy the lightning, yet the day may come when those organizations will not be able to withstand the lightning and the gale. Now, prepare yourselves by making a contribution to your less fortunate brethren... Organize the unorganized!" Right pointing double angle quotation mark sh3.svg -- John L. Lewis.

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