Brief History of Labor in the United States
The history of the American Labor Movement begins with the earliest years of the United States. Unions evolved from guilds which were comprised of individual craftsmen who, after completing a lengthy apprenticeship, became journeymen. These journeymen were sufficiently skilled that they could apply their craft without assistance wherever they traveled. Over time, journeymen formed loose-knit organizations and co-operated to affect the wages and working conditions in the cities and areas within which they worked.
After the Civil War and toward the end of the 19th. century, the United States experienced rapid growth and development. Building Trades prospered as the growth of communities and cities brought an ever increasing demand for journeymen skills. The Building Trades grew and strengthened and trade unions began to evolve. These unions were well on their way to becoming a major influence in American economics in the twentieth century.
One major component of the country's rapid growth as industrialization. Mechanized factories grew in step with the country. In fact there was such a vast need for workers that large numbers of immigrants were needed to fill the jobs. These jobs required low skills and as more and more workers immigrated to the United States the jobs were easily filled. As the century grew to a close, the demand for workers eased and unemployment changed the relationship between employers and workers.
The new rich and powerful who owned factories and controlled commerce became known as "Industrial Barons" who were a kind of Aristocracy, somewhat like the rich and powerful of European history. These"Industrial Barons" used an unprecedented growth in political and economic power and took advantage of the continued growth in manpower and its associated unemployment. This resulted in their using and abusing workers of all ages, gender and background. The stage was set for a backlash by the workers responding to the treatment. Unions provided means for the workers to gain power by working together in an organized manner to counter balance the "Barons" power and address the poor treatment.
The period following the Civil Was until 1935 was filled with strife. Workers formed unions and orchestrated strikes to gain recognition by their employers. The companies hired security forces to protect property and hired new workers to take the place of striking workers. The strikers and security forces clashed and often very violently. The impact on the American economy was terrible. Pressure mounted on political leaders from companies, unions and the public to find a solution to the strife.
In an effort to establish industrial peace, Senator Robert Wagner authored a bill that would set guidelines for a worker's right to assist, form or join unions. This National Labor Relations Act defined acceptable conduct of workers, unions, and employers when workers engaged in organizing. With the passage of this bill, organizing become a legitimate part of labor/management relations in the United States. Since that time, workers have had legal protection to join with co-workers to improve their working conditions by concerted action (working as a group). Today the IBEW has leaders and activists who use the NLRA to help a fair playing field for workers trying to have some say in the wages, benefits and working conditions they contribute to every working day.
Anti-union Consulting Services
About Firms That Do Anti-Union Consulting Services
These firms are more commonly known as “union busters” to those in the labor movement. A union buster is a firm or individual hired by an employer to thwart a union organizing drive by employees. These union busters operate behind the scenes but you can bet the material and message coming from management has been written and prepared by this group.
How do they do their work?
- Use of supervisors to spread the anti-union message.
- One-on-one meetings between management and employees.
- Captive audience meetings with large groups of employees.
- Division – attempt to form a division between employees for any reason.
- Shadowing – Targeting employees they feel they can sway against the union.
What can you do to counter their tactics?
- Consider the source of written material and check it out for yourself.
- Consider the source of management’s message about unions and check it out.
- Document everything management says and question them on the message.
- Stick together and support one another. Talk about the campaign.
- Ask questions about the IBEW and use the reference sources provided.
MYTH:UNIONS ARE GENERALLY CORRUPT.
FACT:The overwhelming majority of union leaders are honest. A former U.S. attorney general found serious problems in less than one-half of one percent of all local unions.
MYTH:UNIONS CAUSE INFLATION.
FACT:Even during the period from 1975 to 1981, when prices were increased by 69 percent, wage gains won by unions at most accounted for 3.3 percent of the total.
MYTH:UNIONS ARE A SPECIAL INTEREST.
FACT:Unions actually use political power in ways that help the entire country. We fight for Social Security, higher minimum wage laws, strong public education, fair trade, and worker protection laws.
MYTH:UNIONS ARE RUN BY BOSSES.
FACT:The University of Michigan Survey Research Center found that within a two-year period about three-quarters of membership went to at least one union meeting and about the same percent voted in a union election. Unions are run by their members, to a greater extent than almost any other American institution.
Starting a Union
"How Do My Co-Workers and I Start a Union?"
First: You must decide why you want a Union.
- Do my co-workers and I want more money or better benefits?
- Do my co-workers and I want better work rules or safer conditions?
- Do my co-workers and I want to be treated fairly and with greater dignity?
The simple fact is that having a union means that your goal must be to work under a written Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Obtaining a CBA means that you can have some affect on all of the above reasons. In fact, the only guaranteed way to have the opportunity to influence any of them is to have a CBA. By having a Union and negotiating a CBA all members of the Union have the right to discuss and debate the items that are to be negotiated in the CBA and further to vote whether to accept or reject the final proposed terms placed on the negotiations table by the employer. Ultimately this means that you must decide whether you are ready to commit the time and effort to obtain a CBA or remain at the pleasure of your employer.
Second: You and your co-workers must decide if you are willing to make an effort.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) provides legal protection for workers who act together to address problems or improve wages, benefits, and conditions of employment in the workplace. By making decisions with other workers at your workplace, your actions are protected against reprisal by your employer. This is called "concerted activity" covered by the NLRA and administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Finally: Be aware that you and your co-workers have control of your future.
You can exercise your rights provided by the Constitution and Laws of the United States to form or join a Union and seek to collectively bargain wages, benefits, and working conditions at your workplace, or you can continue to work under the absolute control of your employer.
"The written CBA is the only tool that provides worker wages, benefits, and work rules that are negotiated and CAN be enforced by legal means!"