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Beginning and End of Labor Unions Research Paper



Labor union is an alliance of employees in a specific trade, industry as well as plant that use group action to fight for remunerations, allowances and working conditions of the members. In the United States, labor unions work along two main organizations that include AFL-CIO that started in 1956 as well as Change to Win Federation.

The Change to Win Federation broke up from AFL-CIO in 2006. Additionally, they participate in politics. On the other hand, AFL-CIO has a great influence on global trade.

In 2009, many workers in the United States had moved out of the labor unions. They reported that employers’ opposition was the main reason behind the moving out from labor unions. Despite membership dropout, labor unions remain a significant political factor in the United States.

This is because of the mobilization and coalition with activist organizations in addressing issues like workers rights, health care and wages. Therefore, this paper will analyze the strategies that labor unions require in order to gain and sustain peoples support.

Additionally, it will highlight the influence of politics on members drop out, generational aspects that have influenced labor unions as well as the past, the present and the future of unions.

Changes that unions require to maintain support

The members

In order for unions to maintain support from their members, it has to engage in a number of activities. To begin with, it should provide its members with information. The information should entail employment, their rights, remunerations as well as working conditions.

According to Abraham Maslow theory of human needs, people work best when their needs are satisfied (Paulson, 2007). Therefore, when members receive information about the union, they will be motivated to support it. This is because they will feel that their needs are being satisfied.

Therefore, unions should hold seminars or workshops to empower the members with knowledge. Additionally, the union can post information on the website so that the members access it and get to know the progress of events.

Moreover, unions should provide allowances to its members (Harrod, 2007). For instance, unions can insure the members against unemployment, sickness, aging as well as funeral expenditure. In such an event, the members will have psychological wellness thus support the union.

This is because they will have nothing that creates anxiety in them. In developed countries like the United States, union members receive legal advice as well as professional training. This increases the faithfulness of the members and as a result, they support the union.

Last, unions can maintain support from their members via political activities. Stronging (2008) explains that union can facilitate legislation that favors the interest of the members. For instance, the union can campaign and support its member who is vying for a political position.

This will increase the support that the union receives from the members. According to the change theory, by Lewins, people can only do something when they know that they will benefit from it (Fantasia, 2009). This is the reason why members who know that they will politically gain from the union support it.

The community

Unions play a critical role in the community life. This is because they use their political as well as economic powers to ensure that the needs of every people who work for a living is satisfied. As a result, unions have received a lot of support from the community.

In the theory of community development, the society mostly supports projects that address their needs (Turner, 2008). Since unions have goals that concentrate on raising the standards of the community working conditions, they are likely to gain support from them.

For instance, in the United States, communities with higher levels of unionization have a lower incidence of poverty, school dropout as well as robbery and crime.

According to Cayo (2007), unions can win the support of the community via campaigning for wages and salary increase. This is because unions have the ability of increasing and stating the minimum wages. For instance, the Living Wage Movement can influence the law.

Moreover, unions can gain support from the community through advocating for health as well as safety of all workers (Lipset, 2007). For example, in 2008, commercial workers sued their employers for failure of provision of protective clothing. Since then, workers receive protective clothing free of charge. This shows that unions are imperative in addressing the needs of the community.

The employers

Employers play a critical role in labor unions. This is because they listen to the grievances of the unions and act accordingly. Therefore, it is important for unions to win their support. The main way is through administrative process. According to Henry Fayol Principles of management, scalar chain and unity of command is imperative for the success of any organization (Lipset, 2007).

Therefore, the unions need to respect the scalar chain and unity of command as they air out their views to the employers. This means that they should follow the hierarchy levels during the grievance process or collective bargaining.

When the employers see that the unions are adhering to the laid down rules and commands, they are likely to support them. For instance, in case of a strike, the union should inform the employer rather than enticing the employees without the knowledge of the administration. When unions behave in an organized manner, they will gain support from the employers.

The influence of politics on membership decline

Politics has a great influence on membership decline. This is because when unions gain favor from politics, the government as well as employers become hostile to them. In around 1990, workers in the United States formed the American Federation of Labor (Paulson, 2007).

This marked the beginning of labor movement in the United States. With time, the union gained political favor through a series of court proceedings.

As a result, there was restriction of embargo as well as laws that were against the unions. This political influence restricted many people from joining the union. Besides, some members had to move out of the union because they could not cope with the situation.

In another scenario, the formation of private sector unions in the United States was through a mutual relationship between labor and management (Harrod, 2007). During the World War II, soldiers had better working conditions than the miners did. The frequencies of mine disasters were high while hazardous conditions were prevalent.

In 1900, a mine explosion killed approximately three hundred people. This led to the formation of independent unions. As a result, workers enjoyed the benefits associated with the unions. As time went by, the union formed collaboration with the government. The government imposed its regulations and law. The politicization of the union led to decline of membership.

In the last years of depression in the United States, members of the communist party joined the labor movement. After the Second World War, unions started eliminating themselves from the control of the communist party (Stronging, 2008).

During the elimination process, many members dropped out of the union. As a result, the congress passed a law called Taft-Hartley Labor Act. The law stated that union should file its report as well as affidavits confirming that the union leaders were not communists. This law controlled the dropout rate of the members from the unions.

According to a research done by Institute for labor relations, political parties get their monetary contributions from the labor unions (Fantasia, 2009). The political parties take their dues from the paychecks of the members because they have power over them.

Therefore, members become disappointed and some of them resign to fate while others move out of the union. In a survey done in 2004, the union members reported that they should not contribute to the political parties that they do not support.

On the contrary, some union members were unaware of their contributions use for political purposes. Upon enlightenment, most of them moved out of the union.

In order to address this issue, Florida Legislators passed a bill that banned deductions of money from the union members’ paychecks (Turner, 2008). Additionally, members had an opportunity of deciding whether they could contribute to the political parties.

According to community development theory, many employees are not willing to join labor unions because of the political influence (Cayo, 2007). For example, in 2008 opinion poll, many workers preferred not to join a union. Besides, those in the unions were willing to move out of it.

The reason behind the negative attitude was fund embezzlement by the political parties. Additionally, the communists and socialists control the United States labor movement (Paulson, 2007). This means that the trend in membership decline will continue to rise.

The generational aspects that have influenced labor unions

Baby boomers

Baby boomer is a generation that came about from 1940 to 1960. It consists of approximately seven million people and majority of them retired in 2006. According to Lipset (2007), baby boomers had a great influence on labor union. This is because they liked work.

For example, they could work for long hours and monitor projects till the end. As a result, most of them joined the labour unions so that they could fight for their rights.

Additionally, they valued teamwork, interpersonal relationships as well as recognitions (Lipset, 2007). This is the reason why many of them joined the labor unions. As a result, they worked collaboratively to ensure that their needs are satisfied.

According to a survey done, Harrod (2007) explains that baby boomers will continue to have an effect on the labor unions. This is because most of them are willing to remain in the union after the retirement.

For instance, many of them reported they are willing to remain in the union in their old age employment. This is because of the benefits associated with the union. Besides, they do not qualify to join any labor union. Therefore, labor unions should develop policies for those willing to work for a long period.

Generation X

Generation X was born from 1965 to 1975. Therefore, this generation has many youths. Most of the workers that are in this generation are between the age of thirty and forty and they concentrate on joining associations like the labor unions (Stronging, 2008).

As a result, their actions determine the growth or failure of the unions. For instance, if they join the association, the union is likely to grow. On the other hand, if they do not, unions are likely to fail.

In another study, a Fantasia (2009) report that generation X has fewer people than Baby boomers. This is because the generation was born when many people had few children. Even if the generation joins and support labor movement, the effect is not likely to be long lasting.

This is because majority of the people in the labor union belong to baby boomers. As members from the baby boomers generation retire, unions are likely to collapse.

Therefore, generation X has a slight influence on the future of labor unions. Additionally, there are factors that hinder generation X workers from joining the unions. For example, cultural differences affect their interaction process thus interfering with the union formation processes.

Generation Y

Generation Y is the current generation. It includes the people who were born from the year 1975. This generation comprise of the young workers. Turner (2008) reports that little is known about this generation. However, many of them do not belong to any union.

This is because young workers do not want to join unions, as they do not see the importance of the associations. If this trend continues, unions are likely to collapse as members of other generations retire.

The external dynamics that affect labor unions

According to single mindedness theory of labor unions, globalization has a profound impact on the union strategies (Harrod, 2007). For example in the United States, it affects the density of the unions. This means that market integrations affect the well-being of the labor unions because of the concern about race.

Some labor unions do not want to include people of a particular race. As a result, the union becomes weak because it has few people (Paulson, 2007).

Additionally, people of the same group and race may not be very innovative. This is because they share many things. Therefore, globalization interferes with the union strategies because of lack of centralization in the bargaining process. As a result, unions cannot access a variety of work settings.

According to Lipset (2007), labor unions attempt to limit globalization by promoting international regulations. For example, union leaders have opposed labor groups’ initiatives that involve free trade. An example of such initiative is the North American Free Trade Agreement.

On the contrary, the union leaders advocate for labor standards. This will ensure that globalization does not interfere with the labor union activities. However, Myer states that the opposition of North American Free Trade Agreement reduces the ability of the labor union to influence international standard (Paulson, 2007).

This s because during the reign of President Clinton, North American Free Trade Agreement wanted to introduce a social chatter and standard that would cater for domestic as well as international institutions.

Additionally, the United States trade representative believed that if he gave labor unions the ability to negotiate, they would agree on North American Free Trade Agreement initiative.

Although unions are disappointed in international negotiations, some labor activists like the AFL-CIO have used a petition process to campaign for awareness (Harrod, 2007). This is because the activists believe that although the legal provision has some weakness, it has helped many people appreciate globalization.

As a result, they urge labor union leaders to develop regulations that entail international code of conducts. This will ensure that labor unions have governing principles. For instance, an association like Fair Labor is imperative in promoting equal treatment of union members. As a result, people from different parts of the world will benefit from the labor unions.

Finally, Labor Lawyer Georgehan of the United States argues that high union wages decrease the competitive nature of manufacturing in the global economy (Stronging, 2008). He adds that industrial bases in the United Kingdom and United States collapsed when labor unions members stopped paying wages.

Therefore, unions should organize themselves globally because of the technological changes. This will assist in increasing the global solidarity. Additionally, workers should corporate with others around the globe (Fantasia, 2009).

This will influence the workers behaviors. As a result, strikes, which usually interfere with global production, will reduce. Therefore, labor union leaders should work towards market integrations.

Labor Unions

The Labor Relation Act (1935) permitted United States workers to join unions so that they could bargain with employers for a pay rise and good working conditions (Turner, 2008). As a result, so many people joined the union. Unfortunately, there has been a decline in the union membership in the last few years.

For example, the division of AFL-CIO was the beginning of labor unions historic time in the United States. Although disagreement about the future direction of labor unions exists, there is some agreement within the leaders and other people on factors that the split will influence (Cayo, 2007).

Some of the factors include labor unions organization, membership recruitment strategies and targeting of companies. Additionally, labor unions are worried about political influence, globalization and union members’ demographics.

According to the theory of trade union, union leaders disagree on the way forward because they have not established the reason behind the dramatic fall of unions in the United States over the last forty years (Lipset, 2007).

Some labor relation critics argue that the decline of the unions is because of global competition, political influence and conflicts between employees and employers.

As a result, many organizations do not allow employees to form labor unions. Additionally, unions have declined because of the nature of work as well as the existence of legislations that protect employees. Hence, workers do not see the necessity of joining a labor union.

When one consider the labor unions in other countries, it becomes difficult to understand the reason behind its decline in the United Sates. Paulson (2007) argues that social as well as political influences are determining factors for labor union membership in most countries.

On the other hand, some people concentrate on economic trends as determining factors. For instance, international competition in the developing countries is the core reason behind the fall of manufacturing business.

This leads to decline in labor unions membership because manufacturing businesses are prevalent in developing countries. Additionally, some labor relation analysts squabble that economic factors play a key role in union membership (Harrod, 2007).

For example, in countries where union membership is high, it means that they have a slower response to global economic changes than the United States because of the rigidity of employment structures. These are the reasons for the development as well as failure of labor unions in the United States.

Moreover, the development as well as the failure of unions coincides with events like war and unemployment (Stronging, 2008). For instance, the United States experienced an increase in union membership after the World Wars and the period of great depression.

This is the reason why it is a challenge for people to form unions in countries where there is political instability as well as poverty. According to some labor relation theorists in the United States, convergence of the historic as well as economic events would enhance the stability of unions.

Unfortunately, the number of union members will eventually decline. On the other hand, some analysts argue that it is possible for a reversal of the prevailing state of the labor unions in the United States (Fantasia, 2009). This is because labor unions have greatly influenced the economy of the United States.

Additionally, the unions have played a critical role of influencing labor laws. Therefore, the labor movements should ensure that unions are active and viable in the 21st century.

Finally, according to Turner (2008), some unions like the UNITE HERE have spilt from the AFL-CIO. This split is important because it will make AFL-CIO focus on labor movement. As a result, labor unions will become strong. The new unions will concentrate on local, national as well as international activities. This will pressurize AFL-CIO to follow the same trend.

Therefore, labor unions in the United States will thrive in the competitive business environment. Moreover, labor unions in the United States should practice the centralization process (Cayo, 2007).

This will fasten the decision making process thus strengthening the union. For example, the SEIU has used the decentralization model for several years. As a result, the SEIU reports that it is an imperative factor for the growth of the unions.


In conclusion, labor unions require changes so that they can maintain support from the members, the employers and the community. In order to maintain support from the members, it should empower them with information and advocate for their rights.

In order to gain support from employers, labor unions should follow the hierarchy of command during grievance processes and collective bargaining. Lastly, in order to gain support from the community, labor unions should address their needs. Additionally, politics has a major influence on union membership decline.

This is because politics influence the behavior of union leaders. In the event where union leaders side with the politicians and forget the interests of the members, many people are likely to move out of the organization. For instance, the deduction of money from the members’ paychecks because of political reasons led to a decline of membership.

Additionally, three generational aspects in the United States have a significant influence on labor unions. They include baby boomers, generation X and Y. This is because of the unique characteristics that each generation has. Additionally, some external dynamics interfere with labor unions.

Global workforce is one such dynamic. Finally, labor unions in the United States have come a long way and they are still thriving in the competitive business environment. In order to remain viable in the 21st century, union leaders, members, employers and the community should work collaboratively for the benefit of every person.


Cayo, S. (2007). The Decline of the Labor Movement. Baltimore: Blackwell Publishing.

Fantasia, R. (2009). Hard Work: Remarking the American Labour Movement. Norh California: University of California Press.

Harrod, J. (2007). Global Unions: Theory and Strategies of Organized Labour in the Global Political Economy. London: Routledge.

Lipset, S. (2007). The Paradox of American Unionism. New York: Cornell University Press.

Paulson, A. (2007). Union Spilit: Sign of Decline or Revival. Science Monitor , 56 (4), 23-45.

Stronging, P. (2008). The Law of the Workplace: Rights of Employers and Employees. Washington DC: BNA Books.

Turner, L. (2008). Transnational Cooperation Among Labour Unions. New York: ILR Press.

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