Portal:Organized Labour

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Introduction

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A trade union, also called a labour union or labor union (US), is an association of workers in a particular trade, industry, or company created for the purpose of securing improvement in pay, benefits, working conditions or social and political status through collective bargaining and working conditions through the increased bargaining power wielded by creation of a monopoly of the workers. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members (rank and file members) and negotiates labour contracts (collective bargaining) with employers. The most common purpose of these associations or unions is "maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment". This may include the negotiation of wages, work rules, complaint procedures, rules governing hiring, firing and promotion of workers, benefits, workplace safety and policies.

Unions may organize a particular section of skilled workers (craft unionism), a cross-section of workers from various trades (general unionism), or attempt to organize all workers within a particular industry (industrial unionism). The agreements negotiated by a union are binding on the rank and file members and the employer and in some cases on other non-member workers. Trade unions traditionally have a constitution which details the governance of their bargaining unit and also have governance at various levels of government depending on the industry that binds them legally to their negotiations and functioning.

Originating in Great Britain, trade unions became popular in many countries during the Industrial Revolution. Trade unions may be composed of individual workers, professionals, past workers, students, apprentices or the unemployed. Trade union density, or the percentage of workers belonging to a trade union, is highest in the Nordic countries.

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Labor rights or workers' rights are a group of legal rights and claimed human rights having to do with labor relations between workers and their employers, usually obtained under labor and employment law. In general, these rights' debates have to do with negotiating workers' pay, benefits, and safe working conditions. One of the most central of these rights is the right to unionize. Unions take advantage of collective bargaining and industrial action to increase their members' wages and otherwise change their working situation. Labor rights can also take in the form of worker's control and worker's self management in which workers have a democratic voice in decision and policy making. The labor movement initially focused on this "right to unionize", but attention has shifted elsewhere.

Critics of the labor rights movement claim that regulation promoted by labor rights activists may limit opportunities for work. In the United States, critics objected to unions establishing closed shops, situations where employers could only hire union members. The Taft–Hartley Act banned the closed shop but allowed the less restrictive union shop. Taft–Hartley also allowed states to pass right-to-work laws, which require an open shop where a worker's employment is not affected by his or her union membership. Labor counters that the open shop leads to a free rider problem. Willing freelancers counter that union contracts are often inherently ageist (with substantial seniority bonuses undercutting the concept of equal pay for equal work) and punitive to the rootless or the adventuresome, who thrive on more diverse career trajectories. Read more...

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Left pointing double angle quotation mark sh3.svg "The idea that businesses will be driven to bankruptcy if strict environmental standards are adopted is the same tired line that has been brought up again and again since workers first organized to improve working conditions. It was brought up when child labor was eliminated, when the minimum wage was introduced, when Social Security and Unemployment Insurance were developed." Right pointing double angle quotation mark sh3.svg — Leonard Woodcock.

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Portal:Organized labour