Labor Unions

I. Definition and Goals of Labor Union

Union is defined as the act of consolidating or unifying. Labor union; on the other hand, is defined as an organization of employees who works under the same industry, and shares the same goals. The goals of the union are to protect the employees’ rights while working, get economic justice, get social justice from the society, improve safety standard, and others benefits such as getting pension, health insurance, and etc. There are diverse types of union, privates union for business-sector workers, union of government workers, craft union, industrial union, and so-on [1]. However, those types of union have been characterized as labor union. Labor unions embody teachers, mechanics, factory workers, actors, polices, doctors, nurses, plumbers, airline pilots and along with the other. This paper is aiming to explain about the history of labor union, its goals and the advantages and disadvantages provided by labor union.
II. History of Labor Union

In America, the labor union was occurred during the industrial revolution between 18th and 19th century [2]. There were some factors leading to the emerge of the labor union. During the industrial revolution, a lot of skilled craftsmen were converted into factory workers. However, the jobs in the factory were limited, and tremendous number of people was waiting to get a job. As the result, the factory reduced the labors’ wages because they knew that even they reduced the wages, no one would be willing to lose their job because a lot of people were now waiting to substitute their place. The labor tolerantly worked under an unhealthy environment with a low salary. Consequently, they united, and formed a group to strike their factory. According to History, the earliest strike was done by the New York Journeymen tailors in 1768. The strike was occurred because the wages of the labors was reduced. 26 years later after the strike in 1794 in Philadelphia, the employees who had been in that strike created an organization which was similar to the labor union. It was called the Federal Society of Journey Cordwainers. Its aims were to sustain the minimum wages, reduce the workdays, and oppose to the cheap labor. The labor union in the United States; on the other hand, was established in the 19th century. It was launched to facilitate the labors living condition by increasing their wages, shortening their working hours, and guarantee the safety for them by letting them working in the sanitary environment. Four tactics that the labor union used to oppose to their workplace were striking, picketing, boycott, and closed up shop. The first type of union was formed as the National Labor Union in 1866 by William H.Sylvis. NLU goals were to abolish the monopoly in industry, create a federal department of labor, withdraw the labor contract, solve the labor conflicts, and regulate the laws of not exceeding the working period of 8 hours per day. However, since there was some discrimination between the black and the white people, another union were formed and it was called Colored National Labor Union. Within that union, both black and white people were accepted to work under the same condition. 3 years after the emerge of National Labor Union in 1869, another union was formed and it was called The Knights of Labor [3]. Its goals were to eliminate the use of child labor, sustaining the period of working to 8 hours per days, getting equal wages, and reforming better regulation regardless of improving the labor way of living. However, the Knight of Labor was collapsed due to the lack of vision, mission, management, and leadership. In 1886, American Federation of Labor was also established. It was one of the well-known trade and labor unions in America. This union could provide the labors with suitable wages that they demand and it could also guarantee the security of its labor; as the result, 1.4 million people became the members of this union. In 1900, America Federation of Labor and National Civic Federation bolstered the trade union to the employers. They also announced that union was good for the democracy society. [4] In 1903, the women workers made a partnership with the middle-class worker to create the Women’s Trade Union League. This women union was created in Boston by Margaret Dreier Robins aiming to raise wages and work in a good condition (National Women’s Museum). Interestingly, during the World War I from 1914 to 1919, the union movements in the United States were still active. The United State entered the war in 1917. The year after that in 1918, the leadership of industry workers all around the world was sentenced in the United State due to the disloyalty. In 1936, American Federation of Labor and CIO created another labor union called Labor’s Non-Partisan League. Labor’s Non-Partisan was established to help President Roosevelt to win the re-election. Another special event was happened during and after the World War II. During the World War II, the labor movement was not silent. National War Labor Board was created in 1941. In 1946, the largest strike emerged. In 1955, AFL and CIL merged and two years after that AFL-CIO expelled two affiliates for corruption. The movement of the American Federation of Labor has been active until the present day. According to Bureau of Labor Statistic report, there are now over 14 million employees who are the member of union. All in all, the labor union in the United States was established in the 18th century due to the changing of technology that required people to transform themselves from a skilled craftsman to a factory worker. The union was developing from time to time until the establishment of craft unionism, industrial unionism, social and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and other unions [5] [6] .

The labor union or trade union in European Union; on the other hand, was originated in Britain. In Britain, trade union was authorized in 1824. Just as in America, a lot of British workers joined this union to demand for higher wages and good working condition. However, before the trade union was legalized, in 1811 to 1816 a strike conducted by the English workers had been formed. The aim of the strike was to fight against the justifying of labour-economising technology [7]. In 1834, the Grand National Consolidated Trade Union was established by Robert Owen. It gained a lot of popularity from the citizens; as the result, this union got more than half a million members in one week. However, after the governments were aware of the potential of this union, they tried to find ways to threaten this union by arresting 6 agricultural workers from the union. The conflict between the union and the governments kept happening during that time. The strike conducted by the union was occurred from time to time. Unfortunately, due to the lack of finance, the union collapsed in 1834. From 1830s to 1840s, activism of the politics was overlap the preponderate of the trade union; hence, people seemed to pay less interest to it [8]. In 1838 to 1858, Chartism, the British working-class movement, struck in Lancashire, Yorkshire and other places in England [9]. The purpose of the strike was to reform the political system that was used in Britain from 1838 to 1858. In 1858, two organizations were founded. Those organizations are Sheffield Trades Council and Glasgow Trades Council. Right after those two organizations were founded, in 1859 and 1860, Edinburgh Trades Council and the London Trades Council was endowed respectively. The agreement that was made on the London Trades Council was to limit the maximum working day of nine hours. A lot of movement regarding to the arrival of the trade union has been occurred chronologically; as the result, in 1867, the Royal Commission approved to create the Trade Labor Union accounted for providing advantages for both employees and employers. In 1871, the Trade Labor Union was legally constituted. Unlike in the United State that the discrimination between the black and the white people, in Britain, the inequality between men and women was arose. The women were excluded from trade union; hence, in 1874, Emma Patterson created a union for women called Women’s Protective and Provident League. The evolving of trade union kept occurring in respect to the formation of labour party [10].
III. Advantages and Disadvantages of Labor Union

Union provides both advantages and disadvantages for employees and employers. In terms of advantages, union can strengthen the bond between the employees. When the bond is tied, the employees can fight for equal opportunities in workplace; they can bargain or negotiate with their employers for things that they want. Employees can always oppose to the unjust firing through collective bargaining agreements (CBA). Another benefit getting from participating in a union is that people have suitable and higher wages than those who are not in the union. They can make 30% more than the non-union members. According to ALF-CIO America’s union, the salary of Asian American who is participating in the union is $1,094 while the salary of those who are not in the union is only $977. The average weekly wages for union workers is $970; whereas, the non-union workers’ wages is $763 [13]. Another advantage of being part of the union is that people will be able to work in a sanitary environment and their health will be protected. For instance, 79% of the employees who are members of the union are provided health insurance considering only 49% of the non-union workers are provided health insurance. Moreover, the union employees have limited working hours. Their maximum working hours is 8 hours; they can spend the rest of their times with their family or doing something that they want. Furthermore, once they are retired, they will have had their retirement plan. 76% of union workers are guaranteed to get pension plans; whereas, only 16% of the non-union workers are guaranteed to have that plans. Union members also has other advantages of uniquely-union financial service, health related discount, scholarship and education service, travel deals and so-on. Unionism also provides employees with some benefits as well [14]. To start off, union provides employers with enthusiastic and hard-working employees leading to the increase of productivity. For example, if the employee is working in a sanitary environment with a good salary, he or she will work diligently for their job since he or she does not want to lose it. Therefore, if they work assiduously, the quality of the product will be great, so the outcome will be positive. Another advantage is that forming a union can improve the economic. Notably, the majority of our customers are our employees. If our customers have a lot of money, it is likely that they will consume more products. Late but not least, labor union also gives advantages of being able to control the situation when the strike is about to occur. If there are some disagreements between the employees and employers, the employees can send their representative to negotiate with the employers. By doing this the employers can control the situation and reconcile with the employees [11] [12].

In spite of providing a lot of benefits, union also provides drawbacks. Union can strengthen the bond between employees. When the bond becomes really tight, it then becomes a threat for the employers. If the power of the employees is solid and their desire is burned, they will always appeal to the manager for more like demanding to increase their wages or cutting down their working hours. If the companies do not provide them with what they want, they will conduct a strike. However, if the company increases the wages, it can impact the economics in the company as well as in a country. When the company increases the wages, it has to reduce the job opportunities or increases the price of the companies’ products in order to sustain its profit. If the job opportunities are declined, it is likely that the amount of unemployed people will be increased. Moreover, if the products’ price is increased, the consumers have to spend more money buying the products. Hence, as can be seen, increasing the wages as the employees want provides a lot of drawbacks; however, the employers do not really have the power to turn down what the employees’ suggestion. They have less power and their ability to discipline the employees is declined. Union benefits the employees by giving them monopoly power which they can use to increase their wages and cut down their working hours. Another disadvantage providing by the monopoly power of the employees is discrimination. Since the job opportunities are declined; therefore, when choosing new applicants, they can choose someone who is their blood relatives or they can choose someone based on their skin color and gender. Economist Ray Marshall, a pro-union secretary of labor under President Jimmy Carter, earn his kudos through reporting on how the black people were excluded from membership in the 1930s and 1940s. He also wrote about the strike against Illinois Central in 1911. During the strike two black men were shot dead by the white guys who were the member of the union. Without any surprise, Black leader Booker T. Washington did not support unions all his life and W. E. B DubBois signified unions as the greatest enemy for the black workers. Not only that the union provides the disadvantages of impacting the economics and having discrimination, but it also provides the disadvantages of creating a gap between the employees and the employers. The way that the employees and employers see one another is as bosses and workers not as people who are working in the same firm trying to achieve the same goals [16]. Hence, we can say that unionism helps strengthen the bond between the employees but not the bond between the employees and employers. The trust and the consolidation in the company are not sustained. Another disadvantage is that union is kind of discouraging the hard-working employees. Since every union workers get the same wages; therefore, for those who work more diligently than the other people tend to feel down, because they do not receive any compliments or rewards for being such hard-working employees. All in all, labor union provides both advantages and disadvantages for employees and employers. However, employees tend to get advantages, while employers or the company or the economic in a country are pressured by the union [11] [15].
IV. Compare and contrast union in the US and in German

Even though each country has labor union; however, the history, the structure, the organization and benefits of the union are different. The United States and Germany have labor union, but there are a lot of differences between the labor union in these two countries. First of all, the origin of the union in the countries is distinctive. The labor union in the United States was established in between 18th and 19th century, whilst the labor union in Germany was created in 19th century during the German Revolution. The history of labor union in the US is not really related to politics; however, the labor union in Germany is related to political condition in that country. In May 2nd, 1933 the labor union in Germany was abolished, and the leader of the union was arrested. After the abolition of the labor union during the Nazi regime, the form of labor union was constituted. It was called Confederation of German Trade Unions. Within this new union, the collective bargaining and the collective labor agreement is not concluded. Not only that the history that is different, but also the organization of the labor union that is different. In the United States, the organization of labor union is more complicated than those of the Germany. First, it has Office of the Secretary of Labor. Office of the Secretary of Labor; on the other hand, is divided into sub-categories hierarchically which are Executive Secretary, Center for Faith Based & Neighborhood Partnerships, Office of the Ombudsman for the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Program, Office of Public Engagement, Office of Administrative Law Judges, Benefits Review Board, Employees’ Compensation Appeals Board, Administrative Review Board and Office of the Deputy Secretary. Moreover, there are 21 offices under Office of the Deputy Secretary [18]. The organization of labor union in Germany; on the contrary, is less hierarchical. It has German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) which is the main organization of eight German trade unions. The organization or structure of the DGB is divided into nine categories which are National Executive Board, Districts, Regions, Local and Town Associations, and DGB International. Not only that the organization of the labor union in both country is different, but also the structure that is distinctive [19]. The structure of the labor union in the United States comprises of four main branches of governance which are General membership, Executive Board, Executive Officer, and Various Committees; whereas, Germany’s labor union has only two structures which are trade union that conducting the agenda for working condition including wage agreements and work hours, and work councils. Another difference of union in the United States and Germany is that the United States’s union is weak and not really consolidated, whilst the union in Germany is strong and united. In the United States, a union usually has conflict with another union. They care only about their own interest or their union’s interest. In some cases, a union joins with the criminal organization in the country. Unlike the United States’ union, Germany’s union is consolidated and wise. They see themselves as the society helpers who do everything for the society’s sake. For example, the American Police Union is perhaps sided with a police who abuses the citizens, whilst the German Police Union sides with the abused citizens instead of a police who is the member of the union. Bargaining process in the labor union is also different between the two country. Just as its name, bargaining process is the process which the labors choose one representative to negotiate with an employer or a group of employers in term of demanding for higher wages, reducing working hours and so-on. The collective bargaining in Germany by far is better than those of the United States. Working rights in the United States are legislated in relation to producing of the collective bargaining; whereas, in Germany, one of a member of European Union, has its collective bargaining concluded in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. There are 53 chapters in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Those chapters are constituted to protect the employees’ privacy, rights, freedoms, equality, safely and so-on. The minimum wage is also the difference. In the United States, the minimum wage has been controlled since the 1938. In that time, the wages was $0.25 per hours. Germany; on the other hand, was one of the seven non-minimum wage countries in the EU until 2014. This country relied on trade union and business groups to maintain the fix minimum pay. The first minimum wage in Germany was set at 8.50 euros. Besides minimum wage, the paid off work between the two country is also different. In the United States, during the paid off work like sick leaves, holidays, and vacation, the workers tend to experience something unpleasant like their wages are cut down. There are 11 holidays available for government workers in a year. For those who work in private sectors, they will get only 8 holidays per year. In Germany, paid off work is better than those in the United States. They get more paid leave than the United State. The minimum paid leave that they get is 24 days per year excluding Saturday and Sunday. If employees want to extend their paid leave, they can negotiate with their employers through collective agreements. As this country is a member of EU, their wages are not affected by their paid leave, in fact it is likely that they will get more wages because the EU believes that the paid off time is valuable for the employees. Employee involvement is another difference between the unions in these two countries. The employees who are not in the labor union do not have the rights to consult or to involve with their employers; whereas, in the Germany, even if the employers are not a member of the union, their rights are still protected and they can involve or consult with the employers. Last but not least, ownership changes are another difference between the two. In Germany, as it is an EU member, the employees’ jobs are protected throughout the contract which is created between the company and the employees. When the ownership of the company is changed, the employees are assured of being fired and they can have consultants with their representation. In the United States, the employees’ jobs are not secured when the ownership of the company is changed. However, to overcome this, the employees can send their representation to negotiate with the employer. They can secure their job if the negotiation is a success. All in all, there are some differences between labor union in the United States and in Germany. The labor union in Germany is more civilized than the labor union in the United States since members of the union are more engaged to the society and get more benefits [17] [20] [21] [22].

1. LABOR UNIONS. (n.d.). Retrieved October 02, 2016, from 2. Labor Movement. (2009). Retrieved October 02, 2016, from 3. Staff. (2009). Knights of Labor. Retrieved October 02, 2016, from
4. Women in the Progressive Era. (n.d.). Retrieved October 03, 2016, from
5. Union Plus. (n.d.). Retrieved October 02, 2016, from 6. Labor History Timeline. (n.d.). Retrieved October 02, 2016, from 7. Trade union. (n.d.). Retrieved October 03, 2016, from 8. Robert Owen Museum. (n.d.). Retrieved October 03, 2016, from http://robert-owen 9. Roberts, S. (2016, June 20). The Chartist movement 1838-1848. Retrieved October 03, 2016, from 10. The Union Difference. (n.d.). Retrieved October 03, 2016, from About-Unions/What-Unions-Do/The-Union-Difference 11. Edmunds, S. A. (n.d.). The Disadvantages of Union Membership From an Employer’s Perspective. Retrieved October 05, 2016, from 33242.html 12. Reynolds, M. O. (n.d.). Labor Unions. Retrieved October 03, 2016, from 13. A subjective comparison of Germany and the United States. (n.d.). Retrieved October 04, 2016, from
14. Organizational Chart. (n.d.). Retrieved October 03, 2016, from
11 | Page
15. Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund. (n.d.). Retrieved October 03, 2016, from 16. EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. (n.d.). Retrieved October 03, 2016, from 17. Wage and Hour Division (WHD). (n.d.). Retrieved October 04, 2016, from 18. Germany approves first-ever national minimum wage. (2014, July 3). Retrieved October 04, 2016, from 19. Bloy, M. (n.d.). The Luddites 1811-1816. Retrieved October 04, 2016, from 20. Union Plus. (n.d.). Retrieved October 02, 2016, from 21. Advantages and Disadvantages of Labor Unions. (2014, May 20). Retrieved October 02, 2016, from 22. Union Membership. (2016, January 28). Retrieved October 03, 2016, from


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s