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What Are Unions?

February 16, 2023

A union is an organized association of workers formed to protect their common interests by providing a platform where employees are given a voice and the right to discuss any workplace issues. It is typically composed of members who are employed in the same industry or trade, and it acts as a representative body for its members in collective bargaining and other matters with employers. 

Through their union, workers are provided with advocacy services and greater negotiation power with employers over issues such as pay, staff benefits, workplace health and safety, job training, and other issues related to employment. Unions also play an important role in ensuring that directors and management are held accountable, act in the interests of workers, and treat those workers with respect. 

Unions have served as powerful representatives of workers' rights worldwide through their dedication to positive change, and they continue to promote democracy as union leaders are elected through a democratic union elections process.

History of Unions 

From the birth of labor unions in the United States to today, unions have played a major role in advancing fair labor practices. Many credit early labor leaders like Peter J. McGuire and Samuel Gompers for making the protection of workers’ rights a priority.

Since the 1800s, unions have pushed for improved working conditions, better wages, stricter safety regulations, and health benefits for employees. This has been especially beneficial for workers from lower paying industries who are often left without representation in political and economic arenas. Collective bargaining agreements protect workers’ rights domestically and abroad, and unions have played a vital role in progressing international harmonization of labor laws.

Benefits of Joining a Union

What does unionizing do? Joining a union is likely to be beneficial—not only can it give you access to support and legal advice, but it can help you get better terms and conditions in your workplace. Unions are advocates for workers’ rights, meaning that they fight for better wages, improved job security, and more favorable working conditions. They can even intervene on behalf of individual members to ensure that employers comply with labor laws. By joining a union, you become part of an organization that stands up for the rights of all workers. This way, everyone can enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining and be confident that their voice is heard.

Unionization Today

Today, unionization remains an important part of the workplace landscape in the United States. According to recent statistics from the U.S Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 10% of wage and salary workers are currently members of a union. This is down from 20% in 1983, with about seven million people belonging to one or more unions across various industries nationwide. 

In unionization, the workers of a company join others in opting for the backing of their chosen union, which will fight to protect the livelihoods of the employees they represent. Unionizing means employees can work safely in the knowledge that when it comes to workplace issues regarding pay, working conditions, or any other employment related issues, they will be provided with up-to-date legal knowledge, protection, and support to face any difficulties that may arise with employers. Unions use their influence combined with collective bargaining techniques to ensure employees’ voices are heard and their rights are acknowledged.

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