How Labor Unions Work


Labor Unions Today
Like his father James R. "Jimmy" Hoffa, who joined the Teamsters as a young man, James P. Hoffa has been a member of the Teamsters for decades, now serving as the union's president.
Like his father James R. "Jimmy" Hoffa, who joined the Teamsters as a young man, James P. Hoffa has been a member of the Teamsters for decades, now serving as the union's president.
Photo used in public domain

The country’s most prominent union, the AFL-CIO, is actually a labor federation made up of 54 member unions with more than 10 million members. Change to Win, which was formed in September 2005, is another major labor federation. It encompasses seven unions and 6 million workers. Other prominent unions include the United Auto Workers, the Service Employees International Union and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The Teamsters are especially famous for their one-time leader Jimmy Hoffa, whose son is now the union’s president.

While labor unions are not as prominent today as they once were, they still play a vital role in protecting and representing America’s workforce. Sweatshop conditions, at one time thought to be banished from the U.S., have seen a resurgence in recent years [ref]. Poor immigrant workers have been frequent victims of sweatshops. So unions, labor groups and social activists have responded by mobilizing awareness campaigns, lobbying the government for action and talking to clothing companies about whom they contract with [ref].

In addition to monitoring and reporting exploitative working conditions, unions are also important in allowing employees to effectively bargain for their wages and to provide a support system for an employee should he or she suffer from any discrimination at work. Unions provide a check against employers who attempt to encroach upon the rights of workers.

For more information on labor unions and other related topics, please check out the links below.

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Sources

  • "American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)." Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9006111/American-Federation -of-Labor-Congress-of-Industrial-Organizations#230617.hook
  • "Union Facts: Statistics on Unions and Union Organizing." American Rights at Work. http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/unionfacts/
  • Lutins, Allen. "An Eclectic List of Events in U.S. Labor History." http://www.lutins.org/labor.html
  • "BLS Data on Unions." U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jan. 25, 2007. http://stats.bls.gov/bls/blsuniondata.htm
  • "Bureau of Labor Statistics." U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics. http://stats.bls.gov/
  • "Complainant's Guide to Elections." U.S. Department of Labor: Employment Standards Administration. Apr. 24, 2006. http://www.dol.gov/esa/regs/compliance/olms/unionelec.htm
  • Friedman, Gerald. "Labor Unions in the United States". EH.Net Encyclopedia, edited by Robert Whaples. May 8, 2002. URL http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/friedman.unions.us
  • "Guild." Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9038409/guild
  • "Office of Labor Management Standards." U.S. Department of Labor: Employment Standards Administration. March 2, 2007. http://www.dol.gov/esa/olms_org.htm
  • "Samuel Gompers." Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9037329/Samuel-Gompers
  • "Taft-Hartley Labor Act." Infoplease. http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/bus/A0847620.html
  • "The Haymarket Martyrs." The Illinois Labor History Society. http://www.kentlaw.edu/ilhs/haymkmon.htm
  • "1866, May 4: The Haymarket Tragedy." Chicago Public Library. May 2005. http://www.chipublib.org/004chicago/disasters/haymarket.html
  • "The History of Labor Day." U.S. Department of Labor. http://www.dol.gov/opa/aboutdol/laborday.htm
  • "Union Member Rights and Officer Responsibilities." FindLaw. http://employment.findlaw.com/employment/employment-employee -more-topics/employment-employee-unions-top/employment -employee-unions-rights.html
  • "Union Members Summary." U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jan. 25, 2007. http://stats.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm
  • "United States Labor." Encyclopedia of the Nations. http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/Americas/United-States-LABOR.html
  • "All About Unions." Workplace Fairness. http://www.workplacefairness.org/laborunions
  • "What is the National Labor Relations Act?" National Labor Relations Board. http://www.nlrb.gov/Workplace_Rights/i_am_new_to_this_website/ what_is_the_national_labor_relations_act.aspx
  • "Retaliation for Union Activity." Workplace Fairness. http://www.workplacefairness.org/retaliationunion
  • Fletcher Jr., Bill. "Sweatshop Labor, Sweatshop Movement." Monthly Review. Mar. 2002. http://www.monthlyreview.org/0302fletcher.htm
  • Liebhold, Peter and Rubenstein, Harry. "Between a Rock and Hard Place: A History of American Sweatshops, 1820 - Present." History Matters. July 1998. http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/145
  • Zacharias, Pat. "The day Jimmy Hoffa didn't come home." The Detroit News. http://info.detnews.com/history/story/index.cfm?id=42&category=people

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