Unions’ Participation In The Economy Essays Examples
Labor unions act as representatives of workers in diversified industries in the world. In the United States of America, unions act as collective bargainers, demanding for the improvement of employee benefits or compensation. The unions also help elevate working conditions, to enable them enjoy better livelihoods and earn what is due to them for services rendered. Employees join these unions at free will, putting them in a bargaining position, eluding any threats of oppression or lack of adherence to their demands or claims.
Labor unions play a variety of roles, all aimed at bettering the lives of their members, who are employees in a variety of industries in the country. Some larger unions indulge in electioneering at the federal and state levels, and other lobbying activities. The reduction in union participation has posed major threats to the middle class in the United States, where their demands and rights are constantly ignored (Bennett and Kaufman 2011).
History of Unions
After the industrial revolution in the 19th century, major effects on the socio-economic areas demanded the unity of workers to demand their rights. After the civil war, there was a major increase in the number of unions in the country, aimed at posing strong opposition to employers and the government for the betterment of employee treatment. An example of these unions is the American Federation of Labor, which had major impacts on the country’s politics and workforce strikes.
The Taft-Hartley Act, passed by Congress, banned unions from making political contributions, eliminated communist leaders of unions, and restricted the strikes, termed as national security threats after World War II. Unions attempted to fight back, but all in vain, and since then, they have continuously declined and have had less effect on the American economy. The number of workers enrolled in unions has since reduced, precisely in the private sector where less than 7% are members of labor unions. Other countries such as Germany and Finland have much stronger unions, and thus the growth of their middle class (Western and Rosenfeld 2011). The middle class is the backbone of any economy, and the major purpose of the unions is strengthening it. The result of full union participation in the labor of a country is ultimate economy growth.
Union’s Destructive Participation
Over the years, the United States has believed in the destructive participation of unions in the economy. Many citizens believe that unions mean to affect the performance of a country negatively, by hindering economic improvements. Proof to this is the existence of strikes that take up long durations for compensation and benefits negotiation. The unions in America, today, fall under two major umbrellas, namely the Change to Win Federation, and (AFL-CIO) the American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations. The two bodies aim at ensuring the upholding of the rights of every member, both in the US and Canada. The bodies are also active in politics, and majorly support the Democratic Party (Bennett and Kaufman 2011).
Despite their existence, the unions play a quite insignificant role as compared to other countries or the past years. They have very few members and are less active in demanding the rights of their members. Many individuals believe that unions are meant to destroy the economy of the USA, and thus do not take their membership plans. Statistics proves that most of the workers in unions are the older generation, often male, who live in the Midwest, Northeast, and California (Western and Rosenfeld 2011). Much of the younger generation does not believe in unions’ participation in economic growth, affecting their enrollment.
The destructive aspect of unions is notable in a variety of scenarios, such as the stagehands' demand of a pay of $400,000. Obviously, such demands are unprecedented and uncalled for. They are not possible, and the union may seem as a destructive participant to the growth of the American economy. Another scenario is a union defending a drunken female teacher who collapsed in class, in front of the students. The teacher’s behavior is unprofessional and demands punishment, rather than shielding and defense by a union (Kristof 2015).
These, however, are a few cases of the destructive participation. According to a New York Times author, Nicholas Kristof, people are seemingly failing to get the bigger picture in regards to union participation. Despite their flaws in shielding workers, unions have played vital roles in the economic growth though there have not been major discussions.
The Cost of a Decline in Unions
In his article, “The Cost of a Decline in Unions,” Kristof points out the advantages of unions, through making comparisons with other unionized nations and the unionized America of the 1950 s. The author notes that much of the inequality in America results from the lack of unions in the country. Fewer people have enrolled in unions today, as compared to other nations such as Germany and Finland. In 1950, the USA had a major enrollment in unions, and this is termed as the union boom. During this period, Americans enjoyed high equality levels, and the chief executives of companies earned a much less percentage in comparison to the average worker. These periods also marked improvements in the country’s economy, and USA was able to top as the economic giant in the world (Kristof 2015).
The private sector has a reduced union participation, threatening the country’s middle class. In Germany, for example, workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. succeeded in gaining recognition from the company. In the country, average autoworkers earn $67 per hour, unlike the average American autoworker who earns $34 hourly. The participation of unions here is evident, and thus the improvement of the economy in Germany. The country also managed to produce twice as many vehicles as the American automotive industry in 2010 (Kristof 2015). Therefore, the unions are not a major threat to economic improvement but are more of a benefit and strengthening the country's economic status.
The mid 20th century marked the fastest growing years for the American economy. The country experienced improvement of the country through the obtaining of a robust economy. The unions played a major role in foreseeing this achievement, and most of the workers believed in union participation for improvement of their livelihoods. A construction worker in 1973 earned a much higher compensation for his or her services, comparable to $10,000 more than one today, in the form of today's currency (Kristof 2015). It, therefore, proves that unions helped better the livelihoods of workers, a simultaneously improving the country’s economy.
Unions have had a major impact on the growth of the country’s economy, and their decline has resulted in widening of the wealth gap. Inequality is prevalent in the country today to a very high degree. The partial elimination of unions has widened the earning gap, where chief executives of large corporations in 2013 earn almost 296 times the amount paid to typical workers, compared to 20 times in 1965. Even the activists of the anti-union revolution complain that the country has gone too far in eliminating their participation. Though they may have caused some threats to growth of the economy, unions have had a major impact on the country’s development, and their reduction has proved increase in inequality. The government and the workers need to review this amendment, to help eliminate the large wealth gap in the nation and reinstitute the accelerated economic growth of the 20th century.
Bennett, J. T., & Kaufman, B. E. (Eds.). (2011). What do unions do?: A twenty-year perspective. Transaction Publishers.
Kristof, N. (2015, February 18). The Cost of a Decline in Unions. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/19/opinion/nicholas-kristof-the-cost-of-a-decline-in-unions.html?_r=1
Western, B., & Rosenfeld, J. (2011). Unions, norms, and the rise in US wage inequality. American Sociological Review, 76(4), 513-537.
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