Labor Unions and Social Movements

The challenges and laws shaping the business sector drawing in corporate social responsibility and good corporate citizenship have shifted as political and social climates have changed in New York, the United States, and around the world. One legal issue, which has been borne since the advent of industrialization era, is unionization. Particularly, the management and labor attitudes denote what may be the most critical factor in industry’s drive for competitiveness. For a long time, supervisors thought of the hourly employees as coming to work with hands and forgetting they had a brain. Came the labor unions in the scene. History

Labor unions have been in existence for at least one hundred years before the United States developed from the thirteen original colonies. Cordwainers, printers, and tailors, formed isolated unions to improve work hours and increase pay. Early unions were all made up of employees in skilled trades. They did, however, have several characteristics still true of union organizations today. Perhaps, most important, they were made up of employees who believed that collectively they could deal with management more effectively that they could as individuals. They had as their primary goals better wages, hours, and conditions of work.

Like their modern counterparts, the early unions wanted guarantees from management that agreements would be honored (Kelly and Willman, 2004). The United States work force numbers about 110 million people, some of whom are unemployed but still eligible for work. Of these, slightly more than 20 million belong to labor unions. Simple arithmetic reveals that for each person in the workforce who is a union member, five employees are not. Although they are clearly a minority of all workers, unions exert a powerful influence on the national economy, on the way organizations are run, and on local, regional, and national politics.

Whether admired or detested, unions are a reality of life that affects everyone. In some instances, the only way employees believe they can influence management is through the collective power of unionism. By joining together, they are able to obtain concessions from management that would be much more difficult to achieve as individuals. At the core of all union activities is the concept that unified groups of employees have greater influence that individuals dealing with management (Kelly and Willman, 2004). In retrospect, the 1980s have not been good years for unionism in the United States.

Declines in overall membership that started in the early 1970s have continued. Proposed union-sponsored legislation has failed at both the federal and state levels (Kelly and Willman, 2004). Indeed, upholding a union-free office is a mark of respect in the modern era of coerced constancy and cracked trust. Labor unions tend to restrict productivity gains by forcing management to accept rigid work rules. Many companies have taken increasingly stronger tactics against traditional union actions that have usually been effective. It is too early, however, to count unionism out as a powerful force in many organizations.