Labor unions have been in existence since the late 1800’s, but even before then, workers in the United States have taken their own methods to take care of themselves, their fellow workers, and their rights. An example of early actions taken is how printers in New York joined forces to demand higher pay. Although the government has acted to protect the right of worker in the last few decades, it wasn’t always enough.
Because of the lack of help given, labor unions were formed and they protected laborer rights, as well as wages fringe benefits, working conditions, hours, job security, and issues with their employers every time a contract is renewed or conflict arises between company and employer. The five major issues that affect negotiations, is the basis of a union’s formation. Depending on the workers position and number of years the worker has been on the job, help set the wages in the contracts being made. Also included is the non-wage factor known as fringe benefits.
The most common fringe benefits include paid sick days, holidays, and vacation days. Also included are health and life insurance, savings plans, retirement as well as profit sharing and stock ownership plans. Labor unions also include and secure safe and desirable working conditions in the contract. The contract should clearly define the work responsibilities and reasonable working hours. Employees want to make sure that labor contracts specify everything that is expected of them as well as everything that should be coming to them like their hours and wages. With unions comes some security.
Workers negotiate their freedom to join the union. The workers want to be able to participate in a union with the freedom of not worrying about whether the company approves or not. One procedure of a union is a grievance. A procedure that takes place when a dispute between laborers and management arises. If a worker files a complaint and brings it up to the Union, a union representative agrees and feels that management has violated provisions, it will be formally addressed to the company and proper actions will undoubtedly be taken. Since one of the earliest and most successful unions, the Knights of Labor, unions have thus since evolved.
The Knights of Labor was an industrial union open to worker from almost all trades and types of work. It was a loosely structured organization; however, at its peak it had nearly 700,00 members. Since then unions are organized into groups like semi-skilled, and unskilled, craft and industrial. Local unions have evolved in different parts of the country into national unions, like postal and medical unions; however, workers in local unions are more active. Although workers are more active in their local union, they are likely to have greater political and economic power because of their smaller size.