Trade union

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Trade unionist)

A trade union (British English) or labor union (American English), often simply referred to as a union, is an organisation of workers intent on "maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment",[1] such as attaining better wages and benefits, improving working conditions, improving safety standards, establishing complaint procedures, developing rules governing status of employees (rules governing promotions, just-cause conditions for termination) and protecting and increasing the bargaining power of workers.

Trade unions typically fund their head office and legal team functions through regularly imposed fees called union dues. The delegate staff of the trade union representation in the workforce are usually made up of workplace volunteers who are often appointed by members in democratic elections. The trade union, through an elected leadership and bargaining committee, bargains with the employer on behalf of its members, known as the rank-and-file, and negotiates labour contracts (collective bargaining agreements) with employers.

Unions may organize a particular section of skilled or unskilled workers (craft unionism),[2] a cross-section of workers from various trades (general unionism), or an 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.[3][4]


Garment workers on strike, New York City, circa 1913

Since the publication of the History of Trade Unionism (1894) by Sidney and Beatrice Webb, the predominant historical view is that a trade union "is a continuous association on wage earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment."[1] Karl Marx described trade unions thus: "The value of labour -power constitutes the conscious and explicit foundation of the trade unions, whose importance for the ... working class can scarcely be overestimated. The trade unions aim at nothing less than to prevent the reduction of wages below the level that is traditionally maintained in the various branches of industry. That is to say, they wish to prevent the price of labour -power from falling below its value" (Capital V1, 1867, p. 1069). Early socialists and Marxists also saw trade unions as a way to democratise the workplace. Through this democratisation, they argued, the capture of political power would be possible.[5]

A modern definition by the Australian Bureau of Statistics states that a trade union is "an organisation consisting predominantly of employees, the principal activities of which include the negotiation of rates of pay and conditions of employment for its members."[6]

Recent historical research by Bob James puts forward the view that trade unions are part of a broader movement of benefit societies, which includes medieval guilds, Freemasons, Oddfellows, friendly societies, and other fraternal organisations.[7]


Trade guilds[edit]

Early 19th century workplace militancy manifested in the Luddite riots, when unemployed workers destroyed labour saving machines.

Following the unification of the city-states in Assyria and Sumer by Sargon of Akkad into a single empire ruled from his home city circa 2334 BC, common Mesopotamian standards for length, area, volume, weight, and time used by artisan guilds in each city was promulgated by Naram-Sin of Akkad (c. 2254–2218 BC), Sargon's grandson, including for shekels.[8] Codex Hammurabi Law 234 (c. 1755–1750 BC) stipulated a 2-shekel prevailing wage for each 60-gur (300-bushel) vessel constructed in an employment contract between a shipbuilder and a ship-owner.[9][10][11] Law 275 stipulated a ferry rate of 3-gerah per day on a charterparty between a ship charterer and a shipmaster. Law 276 stipulated a 212-gerah per day freight rate on a contract of affreightment between a charterer and shipmaster, while Law 277 stipulated a 16-shekel per day freight rate for a 60-gur vessel.[12][13][11] In 1816, an archeological excavation in Minya, Egypt (under an Eyalet of the Ottoman Empire) produced a Nerva–Antonine dynasty-era tablet from the ruins of the Temple of Antinous in Antinoöpolis, Aegyptus that prescribed the rules and membership dues of a burial society collegium established in Lanuvium, Italia in approximately 133 AD during the reign of Hadrian (117–138) of the Roman Empire.[14]

A collegium was any association in ancient Rome that acted as a legal entity. Following the passage of the Lex Julia during the reign of Julius Caesar as Consul and Dictator of the Roman Republic (49–44 BC), and their reaffirmation during the reign of Caesar Augustus as Princeps senatus and Imperator of the Roman Army (27 BC–14 AD), collegia required the approval of the Roman Senate or the Emperor in order to be authorized as legal bodies.[15] Ruins at Lambaesis date the formation of burial societies among Roman Army soldiers and Roman Navy mariners to the reign of Septimius Severus (193–211) in 198 AD.[16] In September 2011, archeological investigations done at the site of the artificial harbor Portus in Rome revealed inscriptions in a shipyard constructed during the reign of Trajan (98–117) indicating the existence of a shipbuilders guild.[17] Rome's La Ostia port was home to a guildhall for a corpus naviculariorum, a collegium of merchant mariners.[18] Collegium also included fraternities of Roman priests overseeing ritual sacrifices, practicing augury, keeping scriptures, arranging festivals, and maintaining specific religious cults.[19]

Modern trade unions[edit]

While a commonly held mistaken view holds modern trade unionism to be a product of Marxism, the earliest modern trade unions predate Marx's Communist Manifesto (1848) by almost a century (and Marx's writings themselves frequently address the prior existence of the workers' movements of his time), with the first recorded labour strike in the United States by the Philadelphia printers in 1786.[20] The origins of modern trade unions can be traced back to 18th-century Britain, where the Industrial Revolution drew masses of people, including dependants, peasants and immigrants into cities. Britain had ended the practice of serfdom in 1574, but the vast majority of people remained as tenant-farmers on estates owned by the landed aristocracy. This transition was not merely one of relocation from rural to urban environs; rather, the nature of industrial work created a new class of "worker". A farmer worked the land, raised animals and grew crop, and either owned the land or paid rent, but ultimately sold a product and had control over his life and work. As industrial workers, however, the workers sold their work as labour and took directions from employers, giving up part of their freedom and self-agency in the service of a master. The critics of the new arrangement would call this "wage slavery",[21] but the term that persisted was a new form of human relations: employment. Unlike farmers, workers often had less control over their jobs; without job security or a promise of an on-going relationship with their employers, they lacked some control over the work they performed or how it impacted their health and life. It is in this context, then, that modern trade unions emerge.

In the cities, trade unions encountered a large hostility in their early existence from employers and government groups; at the time, unions and unionists were regularly prosecuted under various restraint of trade and conspiracy statutes. This pool of unskilled and semi-skilled labour spontaneously organized in fits and starts throughout its beginnings,[1] and would later be an important arena for the development of trade unions. Trade unions have sometimes been seen as successors to the guilds of medieval Europe, though the relationship between the two is disputed, as the masters of the guilds employed workers (apprentices and journeymen) who were not allowed to organize.[22][23]

Trade unions and collective bargaining were outlawed from no later than the middle of the 14th century, when the Ordinance of Labourers was enacted in the Kingdom of England, but their way of thinking was the one that endured down the centuries, inspiring evolutions and advances in thinking which eventually gave workers more power. As collective bargaining and early worker unions grew with the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the government began to clamp down on what it saw as the danger of popular unrest at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. In 1799, the Combination Act was passed, which banned trade unions and collective bargaining by British workers. Although the unions were subject to often severe repression until 1824, they were already widespread in cities such as London. Workplace militancy had also manifested itself as Luddism and had been prominent in struggles such as the 1820 Rising in Scotland, in which 60,000 workers went on a general strike, which was soon crushed. Sympathy for the plight of the workers brought repeal of the acts in 1824, although the Combination Act 1825 severely restricted their activity.[citation needed]

By the 1810s, the first labour organisations to bring together workers of divergent occupations were formed. Possibly the first such union was the General Union of Trades, also known as the Philanthropic Society, founded in 1818 in Manchester. The latter name was to hide the organisation's real purpose in a time when trade unions were still illegal.[24]

National general unions[edit]

Poster issued by the London Trades Council, advertising a demonstration held on 2 June 1873

The first attempts at setting up a national general union were made in the 1820s and 30s. The National Association for the Protection of Labour was established in 1830 by John Doherty, after an apparently unsuccessful attempt to create a similar national presence with the National Union of Cotton-spinners. The Association quickly enrolled approximately 150 unions, consisting mostly of textile related unions, but also including mechanics, blacksmiths, and various others. Membership rose to between 10,000 and 20,000 individuals spread across the five counties of Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire within a year.[25] To establish awareness and legitimacy, the union started the weekly Voice of the People publication, having the declared intention "to unite the productive classes of the community in one common bond of union."[26]

In 1834, the Welsh socialist Robert Owen established the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union. The organisation attracted a range of socialists from Owenites to revolutionaries and played a part in the protests after the Tolpuddle Martyrs' case, but soon collapsed.

More permanent trade unions were established from the 1850s, better resourced but often less radical. The London Trades Council was founded in 1860, and the Sheffield Outrages spurred the establishment of the Trades Union Congress in 1868, the first long-lived national trade union center. By this time, the existence and the demands of the trade unions were becoming accepted by liberal middle-class opinion. In Principles of Political Economy (1871) John Stuart Mill wrote:

If it were possible for the working classes, by combining among themselves, to raise or keep up the general rate of wages, it needs hardly be said that this would be a thing not to be punished, but to be welcomed and rejoiced at. Unfortunately the effect is quite beyond attainment by such means. The multitudes who compose the working class are too numerous and too widely scattered to combine at all, much more to combine effectually. If they could do so, they might doubtless succeed in diminishing the hours of labour, and obtaining the same wages for less work. They would also have a limited power of obtaining, by combination, an increase of general wages at the expense of profits.[27]

Beyond this claim Mill also argued that, because individual workers have no basis for assessing the wages for a particular task, labor unions would lead to greater efficiency of the market system.[28]

Legalization, expansion and recognition[edit]

Trade union demonstrators held at bay by soldiers during the 1912 Lawrence textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts

British trade unions were finally legalized in 1872, after a Royal Commission on Trade Unions in 1867 agreed that the establishment of the organisations was to the advantage of both employers and employees.

This period also saw the growth of trade unions in other industrializing countries, especially the United States, Germany and France.

In the United States, the first effective nationwide labour organisation was the Knights of Labor, in 1869, which began to grow after 1880. Legalization occurred slowly as a result of a series of court decisions.[29] The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions began in 1881 as a federation of different unions that did not directly enroll workers. In 1886, it became known as the American Federation of Labor or AFL.

In Germany the Free Association of German Trade Unions was formed in 1897 after the conservative Anti-Socialist Laws of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck were repealed.

In France, labour organisation was illegal until 1884. The Bourse du Travail was founded in 1887 and merged with the Fédération nationale des syndicats (National Federation of Trade Unions) in 1895 to form the General Confederation of Labour (France).

In a number of countries during the 20th century, including in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, legislation was passed to provide for the voluntary or statutory recognition of a union by an employer.[30][31][32]

Prevalence worldwide[edit]

World map with countries shaded according to their trade union density rate with statistics provided by the International Labour Organization Department of Statistics
  No data

The union density has been steadily declining from the OECD average of 35.9% in 1998 to 27.9% in the year 2018.[33] The main reasons for these developments are a decline in manufacturing, increased globalization, and governmental policies.

The decline in manufacturing is the most direct one as it generally have been low- or unskilled workers who have benefited the most from trade unions. On the other hand, there might an increase in developing nations as OECD nations exported manufacturing industries to these markets. The second reason is globalization, which makes it harder for unions to maintain standards across countries. The last reason is governmental policies. These come from both sides of the political spectrum. In the UK and US, it has been mostly right-wing proposals that make it harder for unions to form or that limit their power. On the other side, there are many policies such as minimum wage, paid vacation, maternity/paternity leave, etc., that decrease the need to be in a union.[34]

Structure and politics[edit]

Cesar Chavez speaking at a 1974 United Farm Workers rally in Delano, California. The UFW during Chavez's tenure was committed to restricting immigration.

Unions may organize a particular section of skilled workers (craft unionism, traditionally found in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US[2]), a cross-section of workers from various trades (general unionism, traditionally found in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, the UK and the US), or attempt to organize all workers within a particular industry (industrial unionism, found in Australia, Canada, Germany, Finland, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US). These unions are often divided into "locals", and united in national federations. These federations themselves will affiliate with Internationals, such as the International Trade Union Confederation. However, in Japan, union organisation is slightly different due to the presence of enterprise unions, i.e. unions that are specific to a plant or company. These enterprise unions, however, join industry-wide federations which in turn are members of Rengo, the Japanese national trade union confederation.

In Western Europe, professional associations often carry out the functions of a trade union. In these cases, they may be negotiating for white-collar or professional workers, such as physicians, engineers or teachers. Typically such trade unions refrain from politics or pursue a more liberal politics than their blue-collar counterparts.

A union may acquire the status of a "juristic person" (an artificial legal entity), with a mandate to negotiate with employers for the workers it represents. In such cases, unions have certain legal rights, most importantly the right to engage in collective bargaining with the employer (or employers) over wages, working hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. The inability of the parties to reach an agreement may lead to industrial action, culminating in either strike action or management lockout, or binding arbitration. In extreme cases, violent or illegal activities may develop around these events.

The Great Southwest Railroad Strike of 1886 was a trade union strike involving more than 200,000 workers.[35]

In other circumstances, unions may not have the legal right to represent workers, or the right may be in question. This lack of status can range from non-recognition of a union to political or criminal prosecution of union activists and members, with many cases of violence and deaths having been recorded historically.[36]

Unions may also engage in broader political or social struggle. Social Unionism encompasses many unions that use their organisational strength to advocate for social policies and legislation favourable to their members or to workers in general. As well, unions in some countries are closely aligned with political parties.

Unions are also delineated by the service model and the organizing model. The service model union focuses more on maintaining worker rights, providing services, and resolving disputes. Alternately, the organizing model typically involves full-time union organizers, who work by building up confidence, strong networks, and leaders within the workforce; and confrontational campaigns involving large numbers of union members. Many unions are a blend of these two philosophies, and the definitions of the models themselves are still debated.

In Britain, the perceived left-leaning nature of trade unions has resulted in the formation of a reactionary right-wing trade union called Solidarity which is supported by the far-right BNP. In Denmark, there are some newer apolitical "discount" unions who offer a very basic level of services, as opposed to the dominating Danish pattern of extensive services and organizing.[37]

A rally of the trade union UNISON in Oxford during a strike on 28 March 2006

In contrast, in several European countries (e.g. Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland), religious unions have existed for decades. These unions typically distanced themselves from some of the doctrines of orthodox Marxism, such as the preference of atheism and from rhetoric suggesting that employees' interests always are in conflict with those of employers. Some of these Christian unions have had some ties to centrist or conservative political movements and some do not regard strikes as acceptable political means for achieving employees' goals.[2] In Poland, the biggest trade union Solidarity emerged as an anti-communist movement with religious nationalist overtones[38] and today it supports the right-wing Law and Justice party.[39]

Although their political structure and autonomy varies widely, union leaderships are usually formed through democratic elections.[40] Some research, such as that conducted by the Australian Centre for Industrial Relations Research and Training,[41] argues that unionized workers enjoy better conditions and wages than those who are not unionized.

International unions[edit]

The oldest global trade union organisations include the World Federation of Trade Unions created in 1945.[42] The largest trade union federation in the world is the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), created in 2006,[43] which has approximately 309 affiliated organisations in 156 countries and territories, with a combined membership of 166 million. National and regional trade unions organizing in specific industry sectors or occupational groups also form global union federations, such as Union Network International, the International Transport Workers Federation, the International Federation of Journalists, the International Arts and Entertainment Alliance or Public Services International.

Labour law[edit]

Union law varies from country to country, as does the function of unions. For example, German and Dutch unions have played a greater role in management decisions through participation in corporate boards and co-determination than have unions in the United States.[44] Moreover, in the United States, collective bargaining is most commonly undertaken by unions directly with employers, whereas in Austria, Denmark, Germany or Sweden, unions most often negotiate with employers associations.

Concerning labour market regulation in the EU, Gold (1993)[45] and Hall (1994)[46] have identified three distinct systems of labour market regulation, which also influence the role that unions play:

  • "In the Continental European System of labour market regulation, the government plays an important role as there is a strong legislative core of employee rights, which provides the basis for agreements as well as a framework for discord between unions on one side and employers or employers' associations on the other. This model was said to be found in EU core countries such as Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, and it is also mirrored and emulated to some extent in the institutions of the EU, due to the relative weight that these countries had in the EU until the EU expansion by the inclusion of 10 new Eastern European member states in 2004.
  • In the Anglo-Saxon System of labour market regulation, the government's legislative role is much more limited, which allows for more issues to be decided between employers and employees and any union or employers' associations which might represent these parties in the decision-making process. However, in these countries, collective agreements are not widespread; only a few businesses and a few sectors of the economy have a strong tradition of finding collective solutions in labour relations. Ireland and the UK belong to this category, and in contrast to the EU core countries above, these countries first joined the EU in 1973.
  • In the Nordic System of labour market regulation, the government's legislative role is limited in the same way as in the Anglo-Saxon system. However, in contrast to the countries in the Anglo-Saxon system category, this is a much more widespread network of collective agreements, which covers most industries and most firms. This model was said to encompass Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Here, Denmark joined the EU in 1973, whereas Finland and Sweden joined in 1995."[47]

The United States takes a more laissez-faire approach, setting some minimum standards but leaving most workers' wages and benefits to collective bargaining and market forces. Thus, it comes closest to the above Anglo-Saxon model. Also, the Eastern European countries that have recently entered into the EU come closest to the Anglo-Saxon model.

In contrast, in Germany, the relation between individual employees and employers is considered to be asymmetrical. In consequence, many working conditions are not negotiable due to a strong legal protection of individuals. However, the German flavor or works legislation has as its main objective to create a balance of power between employees organized in unions and employers organized in employers associations. This allows much wider legal boundaries for collective bargaining, compared to the narrow boundaries for individual negotiations. As a condition to obtain the legal status of a trade union, employee associations need to prove that their leverage is strong enough to serve as a counterforce in negotiations with employers. If such an employees association is competing against another union, its leverage may be questioned by unions and then evaluated in a court trial. In Germany, only very few professional associations obtained the right to negotiate salaries and working conditions for their members, notably the medical doctors association Marburger Bund and the pilots association Vereinigung Cockpit. The engineers association Verein Deutscher Ingenieure does not strive to act as a union, as it also represents the interests of engineering businesses.

Beyond the classification listed above, unions' relations with political parties vary. In many countries unions are tightly bonded, or even share leadership, with a political party intended to represent the interests of the working class. Typically this is a left-wing, socialist, or social democratic party, but many exceptions exist, including some of the aforementioned Christian unions.[2] In the United States, trade unions are almost always aligned with the Democratic Party with a few exceptions. For example, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has supported Republican Party candidates on a number of occasions and the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) endorsed Ronald Reagan in 1980. In Britain trade union movement's relationship with the Labour Party frayed as party leadership embarked on privatization plans at odds with what unions see as the worker's interests. However, it has strengthened once more after the Labour party's election of Ed Miliband, who beat his brother David Miliband to become leader of the party after Ed secured the trade union votes. Additionally, in the past, there was a group known as the Conservative Trade Unionists, or CTU, formed of people who sympathized with right wing Tory policy but were Trade Unionists.

Historically, the Republic of Korea has regulated collective bargaining by requiring employers to participate, but collective bargaining has only been legal if held in sessions before the lunar new year.

Shop types[edit]

Companies that employ workers with a union generally operate on one of several models:

  • A closed shop (US) or a "pre-entry closed shop" (UK) employs only people who are already union members. The compulsory hiring hall is an example of a closed shop—in this case the employer must recruit directly from the union, as well as the employee working strictly for unionized employers.
  • A union shop (US) or a "post-entry closed shop" (UK) employs non-union workers as well, but sets a time limit within which new employees must join a union.
  • An agency shop requires non-union workers to pay a fee to the union for its services in negotiating their contract. This is sometimes called the Rand formula.
  • An open shop does not require union membership in employing or keeping workers. Where a union is active, workers who do not contribute to a union may include those who approve of the union contract (free riders) and those who do not. In the United States, state level right-to-work laws mandate the open shop in some states. In Germany only open shops are legal; that is, all discrimination based on union membership is forbidden. This affects the function and services of the union.

An EU case concerning Italy stated that, "The principle of trade union freedom in the Italian system implies recognition of the right of the individual not to belong to any trade union ("negative" freedom of association/trade union freedom), and the unlawfulness of discrimination liable to cause harm to non-unionized employees."[48]

In Britain, previous to this EU jurisprudence, a series of laws introduced during the 1980s by Margaret Thatcher's government restricted closed and union shops. All agreements requiring a worker to join a union are now illegal. In the United States, the Taft–Hartley Act of 1947 outlawed the closed shop.

In 2006, the European Court of Human Rights found Danish closed-shop agreements to be in breach of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. It was stressed that Denmark and Iceland were among a limited number of contracting states that continue to permit the conclusion of closed-shop agreements.[49]



The academic literature shows substantial evidence that trade unions reduce economic inequality.[50][51][52][53] The economist Joseph Stiglitz has asserted that, "Strong unions have helped to reduce inequality, whereas weaker unions have made it easier for CEOs, sometimes working with market forces that they have helped shape, to increase it." The decline in unionization since the Second World War in the United States has been associated with a pronounced rise in income and wealth inequality and, since 1967, with loss of middle class income.[54][55][56][57] Right-to-work laws have been linked to greater economic inequality in the United States.[58][59]

Research from Norway has found that high unionization rates lead to substantial increases in firm productivity, as well as increases in workers' wages.[60] Research from Belgium also found productivity gains, although smaller.[61] Other research in the United States has found that unions can harm profitability, employment and business growth rates.[62][63] Research from the Anglosphere indicates that unions can provide wage premiums and reduce inequality while reducing employment growth and restricting employment flexibility.[64]

In the United States, the outsourcing of labour to Asia, Latin America, and Africa has been partially driven by increasing costs of union partnership, which gives other countries a comparative advantage in labour, making it more efficient to perform labour-intensive work there.[65] Trade unions have been accused of benefiting insider workers and those with secure jobs at the cost of outsider workers, consumers of the goods or services produced, and the shareholders of the unionized business.[66] Milton Friedman, economist and advocate of laissez-faire capitalism, sought to show that unionization produces higher wages (for the union members) at the expense of fewer jobs, and that, if some industries are unionized while others are not, wages will tend to decline in non-unionized industries.[67]


In the United States, the weakening of unions has been linked to more favourable electoral outcomes for the Republican Party.[68][69][70] Legislators in areas with high unionization rates are more responsive to the interests of the poor, whereas areas with lower unionization rates are more responsive to the interests of the rich.[71] Higher unionization rates increase the likelihood of parental leave policies being adopted.[72] Republican-controlled states are less likely to adopt more restrictive labour policies when unions are strong in the state.[73]

Research in the United States found that American congressional representatives were more responsive to the interests of the poor in districts with higher unionization rates.[74] Another 2020 American study found an association between US state level adoption of parental leave legislation and trade union strength.[75]

In the United States, unions have been linked to lower racial resentment among whites.[76] Membership in unions increases political knowledge, in particular among those with less formal education.[77]


In the United States, higher union density has been associated with lower suicide/overdose deaths.[78] Decreased unionisation rates in the United States have been linked to an increase in occupational fatalities.[79]

Trade unions by country[edit]


The Australian labour movement generally sought to end child labour practices, improve worker safety, increase wages for both union workers and non-union workers, raise the entire society's standard of living, reduce the hours in a work week, provide public education for children, and bring other benefits to working class families.[80]

Melbourne Trades Hall was opened in 1859 with Trades and Labour Councils and Trades Halls opening in all cities and most regional towns in the next forty years. During the 1880s Trade unions developed among shearers, miners, and stevedores (wharf workers), but soon spread to cover almost all blue-collar jobs. Shortages of labour led to high wages for a prosperous skilled working class, whose unions demanded and got an eight-hour day and other benefits unheard of in Europe.

Eight-hour day march circa 1900, outside Parliament House in Spring Street, Melbourne

Australia gained a reputation as "the working man's paradise". Some employers tried to undercut the unions by importing Chinese labour. This produced a reaction which led to all the colonies restricting Chinese and other Asian immigration. This was the foundation of the White Australia Policy. The "Australian compact", based around centralised industrial arbitration, a degree of government assistance particularly for primary industries, and White Australia, was to continue for many years before gradually dissolving in the second half of the 20th century.

In the 1870s and 1880s, the growing trade union movement began a series of protests against foreign labour. Their arguments were that Asians and Chinese took jobs away from white men, worked for "substandard" wages, lowered working conditions and refused unionisation.[81]

Objections to these arguments came largely from wealthy land owners in rural areas.[81] It was argued that without Asiatics to work in the tropical areas of the Northern Territory and Queensland, the area would have to be abandoned.[82] Despite these objections to restricting immigration, between 1875 and 1888 all Australian colonies enacted legislation which excluded all further Chinese immigration.[82] Asian immigrants already residing in the Australian colonies were not expelled and retained the same rights as their Anglo and Southern compatriots.

The Barton Government which came to power after the first elections to the Commonwealth parliament in 1901 was formed by the Protectionist Party with the support of the Australian Labor Party. The support of the Labor Party was contingent upon restricting non-white immigration, reflecting the attitudes of the Australian Workers Union and other labour organisations at the time, upon whose support the Labor Party was founded.


Canada's first trade union, the Labourers' Benevolent Association (now International Longshoremen's Association Local 273), formed in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1849. The union was formed when Saint John's longshoremen banded together to lobby for regular pay and a shorter workday.[83] Canadian unionism had early ties with Britain and Ireland. Tradesmen who came from Britain brought traditions of the British trade union movement, and many British unions had branches in Canada. Canadian unionism's ties with the United States eventually replaced those with Britain.

Collective bargaining was first recognized in 1945, after the strike by the United Auto Workers at the General Motors' plant in Oshawa, Ontario. Justice Ivan Rand issued a landmark legal decision after the strike in Windsor, Ontario, involving 17,000 Ford workers. He granted the union the compulsory check-off of union dues. Rand ruled that all workers in a bargaining unit benefit from a union-negotiated contract. Therefore, he reasoned they must pay union dues, although they do not have to join the union.

The post-World War II era also saw an increased pattern of unionization in the public service. Teachers, nurses, social workers, professors and cultural workers (those employed in museums, orchestras and art galleries) all sought private-sector collective bargaining rights. The Canadian Labour Congress was founded in 1956 as the national trade union center for Canada.

In the 1970s the federal government came under intense pressures to curtail labour cost and inflation. In 1975, the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau introduced mandatory price and wage controls. Under the new law, wages increases were monitored and those ruled to be unacceptably high were rolled back by the government.

Pressures on unions continued into the 1980s and '90s. Private sector unions faced plant closures in many manufacturing industries and demands to reduce wages and increase productivity. Public sector unions came under attack by federal and provincial governments as they attempted to reduce spending, reduce taxes and balance budgets. Legislation was introduced in many jurisdictions reversing union collective bargaining rights, and many jobs were lost to contractors.[84]

Prominent domestic unions in Canada include ACTRA, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the National Union of Public and General Employees, and Unifor. International unions active in Canada include the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, United Automobile Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers, and United Steelworkers.

Continental Europe[edit]

Trade unions in Germany have a history reaching back to the German revolutions of 1848-1849, and still play an important role in the German economy and society. In 1875, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) was formed, and at first supported the forming of unions who were not directly affiliated with the Social Democratic Party.[85] The SPD instead insisted on the primacy of politics, and refused to emphasize support for union goals and methods.[86] During the rise of the Nazi Party, the trade unions did not recognise the threat and failed to actively oppose Adolf Hitler.[87] Today, the largest labour organisation is the German Trade Union Confederation, which represented more than 6 million workers in 2011.[88]

Trade unions in Belgium have one of the highest percentages of trade union membership, with 65% of workers belonging to a union. The biggest trade union federations in the country are the Christian democrat Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (ACV-CSC),[89][90] the socialist General Federation of Belgian Labour (ABVV-FGTB),[91] and the classical liberal General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium (ACLVB-CGSLB).[92][93]

Trade unions in Spain have a tumultuous history, as during the Spanish Civil War, syndicalists took control over much of the country. Unions were particularly present in Revolutionary Catalonia, with organisations like the anarcho-syndicalist CNT organising throughout Spain.[94] Following the loss of the civil war to the fascist and dictator Francisco Franco, trade unions were seen as a threat and all existing trade unions were banned. The Spanish Syndical Organization as the only legal Spanish trade union, with the organisation existing to maintain Franco's power, and the former trade unions were forced underground.[95][96] During the Spanish transition to democracy, trade unions became legal once again. Today, cooperatives, such as the Mondragon Corporation, employ large parts of the Spanish population.[97]

Northern Europe[edit]

Workers on strike in Oslo, Norway, 2012

Trade unions have a long tradition in Scandinavian and Nordic society. which began in the mid-19th century, they today have a large impact on the nature of employment and workers' rights in those countries, with the world's highest rates of union membership.[98] As of 2018, the percentage of workers belonging to a union (trade union density) was 90.4% in Iceland, 67.2% in Denmark, 66.1% in Sweden, 64.4% in Finland and 52.5% in Norway, while it is unknown in Greenland, Faroe Islands and Åland.[99] Excluding full-time students working part-time, Swedish union density was 68% in 2019.[100] In all the Nordic countries with a Ghent system—Sweden,[101] Denmark and Finland—union density is about 70%. The considerably raised membership fees of Swedish union unemployment funds implemented by the centre-right Reinfeldt government in January 2007 caused large drops in membership in both unemployment funds and trade unions. From 2006 to 2008, union density declined by six percentage points: from 77% to 71%.[102][103][104]

In all three Baltic countries, trade unions were an universal aspect of life for workers' whilst under the rule of the Soviet Union, with the system closely integrated with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. After the regaining of their independence, the trade unions in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have experienced a rapid loss of membership and economic power, while the inverse occurring for employers' organisations. Low financial and organisational capacity caused by declining membership adds to the problem of interest definition, aggregation and protection in negotiations with employers' and state organisations.[105] Historical legitimacy is one of the negative factors that determine low associational power.[106]


All Trade Unions' Rally in Udaipur, Rajasthan

In India, the Trade Union movement is generally divided on political lines. According to provisional statistics from the Ministry of Labour, trade unions had a combined membership of 24,601,589 in 2002. As of 2008, there are 12 Central Trade Union Organisations (CTUO) recognized by the Ministry of Labour.[107] The forming of these unions was a big deal in India. It led to a big push for more regulatory laws which gave workers a lot more power.[108]

All India Trade Union Congress is the oldest trade union federation in India. It is a left supported organisation. A trade union with nearly 2,000,000 members is the Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA) which protects the rights of Indian women working in the informal economy. In addition to the protection of rights, SEWA educates, mobilizes, finances, and exalts their members' trades.[109] Multiple other organisations represent workers. These organisations are formed upon different political groups.[110] These different groups allow different groups of people with different political views to join a Union.[111]


Trade unions emerged in Japan in the second half of the Meiji period as the country underwent a period of rapid industrialization.[112] Until 1945, however, the labour movement remained weak, impeded by lack of legal rights,[113] anti-union legislation,[112] management-organised factory councils, and political divisions between "cooperative" and radical unionists.[114] In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the US Occupation authorities initially encouraged the formation of independent unions.[113] Legislation was passed that enshrined the right to organise,[115] and membership rapidly rose to 5 million by February 1947.[113] The organisation rate, however, peaked at 55.8% in 1949 and subsequently declined to 18.2% (2006).[116] The labour movement went through a process of reorganisation from 1987 to 1991[117] from which emerged the present configuration of three major trade union federations, Rengo, Zenroren, and Zenrokyo, along with other smaller national union organisations.

Latin America[edit]

Historically, unions in Mexico were part of a state institutional system where, from 1940 until the 1980s, they did not operate independently and were largely controlled by the ruling party.[118] During this period, the primary aim of the trade unions was to primarily carry out the state's economic policy which peaked in the mid 20th century with the so-called "Mexican Miracle". This policy saw rising incomes and improved standards of living, however, the main beneficiaries were the wealthy.[118] In the 1980s, Mexico began adhering to the neoliberal Washington Consensus, selling off state-owned industries to private owners, who had an antagonistic attitude towards unions, which, accustomed to comfortable relationships with the state, were not prepared to fight back. A movement of new unions began to emerge under a more independent model, while the former institutionalized unions had become very corrupt, violent, and led by gangsters. From the 1990s onwards, this new model of independent unions prevailed, a number of them represented by the National Union of Workers.[118][119]

Until around 1990 Colombian trade unions were among the strongest in Latin America.[120] However, the 1980s expansion of paramilitarism in Colombia saw trade union leaders and members increasingly targeted for assassination, and as a result Colombia has been the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists for several decades.[121][122][123] Between 2000 and 2010 Colombia accounted for 63.1% of trade unionists murdered globally.[124] According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) there were 2832 murders of trade unionists between 1 January 1986 and 30 April 2010,[124] meaning that "on average, men and women trade unionists in Colombia have been killed at the rate of one every three days over the last 23 years."[125]

Banner reads "Por una reforma justa a ley de bienes inmuebles, Sector Agropecuario"
Costa Rican farmers march for tax cuts, 2011

In Costa Rica, trade unions first appeared in the late 1800s to support workers in a variety of urban and industrial jobs, such as railroad builders and craft tradesmen.[126] After facing violent repression, such as during the 1934 United Fruit Strike, unions gained more power after the 1948 Costa Rican Civil War.[126] Today, Costa Rican unions are strongest in the public sector, including the fields of education and medicine, but also have a strong presence in the agricultural sector.[126] In general, Costa Rican unions support government regulation of the banking, medical, and education fields, as well as improved wages and working conditions.[127]

United Kingdom[edit]

Public sector workers in Leeds striking over pension changes by the government in November 2011

Moderate New Model Unions dominated the union movement from the mid-19th century and where trade unionism was stronger than the political labour movement until the formation and growth of the Labour Party in the early years of the 20th century.

Trade unionism in the United Kingdom was a major factor in some of the economic crises during the 1960s and the 1970s, culminating in the "Winter of Discontent" of late-1978 and early-1979, when a significant percentage of the nation's public sector workers went on strike. By this stage, some 12,000,000 workers in the United Kingdom were trade union members. However, the election victory of the Conservative Party led by Margaret Thatcher at the 1979 general election, at the expense of Labour's James Callaghan, saw substantial trade union reform which saw the level of strikes fall. The level of trade union membership also fell sharply in the 1980s, and continued falling for most of the 1990s. The long decline of most of the industries in which manual trade unions were strong—e.g. steel, coal, printing, the docks—was one of the causes of this loss of trade union members.[128]

In 2011, there were 6,135,126 members in TUC-affiliated unions, down from a peak of 12,172,508 in 1980. Trade union density was 14.1% in the private sector and 56.5% in the public sector.[129]

United States[edit]

Labor unions are legally recognized as representatives of workers in many industries in the United States. In the United States, unions were formed based on power with the people, not over the people like the government at the time.[130] Their activity today centres on collective bargaining over wages, benefits and working conditions for their membership, and on representing their members in disputes with management over violations of contract provisions. Larger unions also typically engage in lobbying activities and supporting endorsed candidates at the state and federal level.

Most unions in America are aligned with one of two larger umbrella organisations: the AFL–CIO created in 1955, and the Change to Win Federation which split from the AFL-CIO in 2005. Both advocate policies and legislation on behalf of workers in the United States and Canada, and take an active role in politics. The AFL–CIO is especially concerned with global trade issues.

Child labourers in an Indiana glass works. Labor unions have an objective interest in combating child labour.

In 2010, the percentage of workers belonging to a union in the United States (or total trade union "density") was 11.4%, compared to 18.3% in Japan, 27.5% in Canada and 70% in Finland.[131]

The most prominent unions are among public sector employees such as teachers, police and other non-managerial or non-executive federal, state, county and municipal employees. Members of unions are disproportionately older, male and residents of the Northeast, the Midwest, and California.[132]

The majority of union members come from the public sector. Nearly 34.8% of public sector employees are union members. In the private sector, just 6.3% of employees are union members[133]—levels not seen since the 1930s.[134]

Union workers in the private sector average 10–30% higher pay than non-union in America after controlling for individual, job, and labour market characteristics.[135] Because of their inherently governmental function, public sector workers are paid the same regardless of union affiliation or non-affiliation after controlling for individual, job, and labour market characteristics.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Webb & Webb 1920.
  2. ^ a b c d Poole, M., 1986. Industrial Relations: Origins and Patterns of National Diversity. London UK: Routledge.
  3. ^ "Trade Union Dataset". OECD. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  4. ^ "Industrial relations". ILOSTAT. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  5. ^ Botz, Dan La (2013). "The Marxist View of the Labor Unions: Complex and Critical". WorkingUSA. 16 (1): 5–42. doi:10.1111/wusa.12021. ISSN 1743-4580.
  6. ^ "Trade Union Census". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  7. ^ James 2001.
  8. ^ Powell, Marvin A. (1995). "Metrology and Mathematics in Ancient Mesopotamia". In Sasson, Jack M. (ed.). Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. Vol. III. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 1955. ISBN 0684192799.
  9. ^ Hammurabi (1903). Translated by Sommer, Otto. "Code of Hammurabi, King of Babylon". Records of the Past. Washington, DC: Records of the Past Exploration Society. 2 (3): 85. Retrieved 20 June 2021. 234. If a shipbuilder builds ... as a present [compensation].
  10. ^ Hammurabi (1904). "Code of Hammurabi, King of Babylon" (PDF). Liberty Fund. Translated by Harper, Robert Francis (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 83. Retrieved 20 June 2021. §234. If a boatman build ... silver as his wage.
  11. ^ a b Hammurabi (1910). "Code of Hammurabi, King of Babylon". Avalon Project. Translated by King, Leonard William. New Haven, CT: Yale Law School. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  12. ^ Hammurabi (1903). Translated by Sommer, Otto. "Code of Hammurabi, King of Babylon". Records of the Past. Washington, DC: Records of the Past Exploration Society. 2 (3): 88. Retrieved 20 June 2021. 275. If anyone hires a ... day as rent therefor.
  13. ^ Hammurabi (1904). "Code of Hammurabi, King of Babylon" (PDF). Liberty Fund. Translated by Harper, Robert Francis (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 95. Retrieved 20 June 2021. §275. If a man hire ... its hire per day.
  14. ^ The Documentary History of Insurance, 1000 B.C.–1875 A.D. Newark, NJ: Prudential Press. 1915. pp. 5–6. Retrieved 15 June 2021.
  15. ^ de Ligt, L. (2001). "D. 47,22, 1, pr.-1 and the Formation of Semi-Public "Collegia"". Latomus. 60 (2): 346–349. ISSN 0023-8856. JSTOR 41539517.
  16. ^ Ginsburg, Michael (1940). "Roman military clubs and their social functions". Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association. 71: 149–156. doi:10.2307/283119. JSTOR 283119.
  17. ^ Welsh, Jennifer (23 September 2011). "Huge Ancient Roman Shipyard Unearthed in Italy". Live Science. Future. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  18. ^ Epstein, Steven A. (1995). Wage Labor and Guilds in Medieval Europe. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 10–49. ISBN 978-0807844984.
  19. ^ Lintott, Andrew (1999). The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 183–186. ISBN 978-0198150688.
  20. ^ Perlman, Selig (1922). A History of Trade Unionism in the United States. New York: MacMillan. pp. 1–3.
  21. ^ Tomich, Dale W. (2004). Through the prism of slavery : labor, capital, and world economy. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 1417503572. OCLC 55090137.
  22. ^ (1928). The Guild and the Trade Union. The Age.
  23. ^ Kautsky, Karl (April 1901). "Trades Unions and Socialism". International Socialist Review. 1 (10). Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  24. ^ Cole 2010, p. 3.
  25. ^ Webb, Sidney; Webb, Beatrice (1894). History of Trade Unionism. London: Longmans Green and Co. pp. 120–124.
  26. ^ Webb & Webb 1894, p. 122.
  27. ^ Principles of Political Economy (1871)Book V, Ch.10 Archived 6 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine, para. 5
  28. ^ King, John T.; Yanochik, Mark A. (2011). "John Stuart Mill and the Economic Rationale for Organized Labor". The American Economist. 56 (2): 28–34. doi:10.1177/056943451105600205. ISSN 0569-4345. JSTOR 23240389. S2CID 157935634.
  29. ^ "Trade union". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  30. ^ Townshend-Smith, R (1981). "Trade union recognition legislation – Britain and America compared". Legal Studies. 1 (2): 190–212. doi:10.1111/j.1748-121X.1981.tb00120.x. S2CID 145725063.
  31. ^ Briggs, C. (2007). "Statutory Union Recognition in North America and the UK: Lessons for Australia?". The Economic and Labour Relations Review. 17 (2): 77–97. doi:10.1177/103530460701700205. S2CID 153980466.
  32. ^ Goodard, J. (2013). "Labour Law and Union Recognition in Canada: A Historical-Institutionalist Perspective". Queen's Law Journal. 38 (2): 391–417.
  33. ^ "Trade Union". Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  34. ^ "Why trade unions are declining". The Economist. 29 September 2015. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  35. ^ "The 10 Biggest Strikes in American History Archived 2 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine". Fox Business. 9 August 2011
  36. ^ Amnesty International report 23 September 2005 – fear for safety of SINALTRAINAL member José Onofre Esquivel Luna
  37. ^ "See the website of the Danish discount union "Det faglige Hus"". Danish.
  38. ^ Poland, Professor Jacek Tittenbrun of Poznan University. "The economic and social processes that led to the revolt of the Polish workers in the early eighties". Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  39. ^ Solidarność popiera Kaczyńskiego jak kiedyś Wałęsę at (in Polish)
  40. ^ See E McGaughey, 'Democracy or Oligarchy? Models of Union Governance in the UK, Germany and US' (2017)
  41. ^ "Australian Centre for Industrial Relations Research and Training report" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  42. ^ "WFTU » History". Retrieved 25 January 2022.
  43. ^ "International Trade Union Confederation". Retrieved 25 January 2022.
  44. ^ Bamberg, Ulrich (June 2004). "The role of German trade unions in the national and European standardisation process" (PDF). TUTB Newsletter. 24–25. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  45. ^ Gold, M., 1993. The Social Dimension – Employment Policy in the European Community. Basingstoke England UK: Macmillan Publishing
  46. ^ Hall, M., 1994. Industrial Relations and the Social Dimension of European Integration: Before and after Maastricht, pp. 281–331 in Hyman, R. & Ferner A., eds.: New Frontiers in European Industrial Relations, Basil Blackwell Publishing
  47. ^ Wagtmann, M.A. (2010): Module 3, Maritime & Port Wages, Benefits, Labour Relations. International Maritime Human Resource Management textbook modules. Available at:
  48. ^ "Freedom of Association/Trade Union Freedom". Eurofound website. Archived from the original on 17 April 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  49. ^ "ECHR rules against Danish closed-shop agreements". Eurofound website.
  50. ^ Ahlquist, John S. (2017). "Labor Unions, Political Representation, and Economic Inequality". Annual Review of Political Science. 20 (1): 409–432. doi:10.1146/annurev-polisci-051215-023225.
  51. ^ Farber, Henry S; Herbst, Daniel; Kuziemko, Ilyana; Naidu, Suresh (2021). "Unions and Inequality over the Twentieth Century: New Evidence from Survey Data*". The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 136 (3): 1325–1385. doi:10.1093/qje/qjab012. ISSN 0033-5533.
  52. ^ Collins, William J.; Niemesh, Gregory T. (2019). "Unions and the Great Compression of wage inequality in the US at mid-century: evidence from local labour markets". The Economic History Review. 72 (2): 691–715. doi:10.1111/ehr.12744. ISSN 1468-0289.
  53. ^ ehs1926 (12 February 2019). "Unions and American Income Inequality at Mid-Century". The Long Run. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  54. ^ Doree Armstrong (12 February 2014). Jake Rosenfeld explores the sharp decline of union membership, influence. UW Today. Retrieved 6 March 2015. See also: Jake Rosenfeld (2014) What Unions No Longer Do. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674725115
  55. ^ Keith Naughton, Lynn Doan and Jeffrey Green (20 February 2015). As the Rich Get Richer, Unions Are Poised for Comeback. Bloomberg. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
    • "A 2011 study drew a link between the decline in union membership since 1973 and expanding wage disparity. Those trends have since continued, said Bruce Western, a professor of sociology at Harvard University who co-authored the study."
  56. ^ Stiglitz, Joseph E. (4 June 2012). The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future (Kindle Locations 1148–1149). Norton. Kindle Edition.
  57. ^ Barry T. Hirsch, David A. Macpherson, and Wayne G. Vroman, "Estimates of Union Density by State," Monthly Labor Review, Vol. 124, No. 7, July 2001.
  58. ^ VanHeuvelen, Tom (1 March 2020). "The Right to Work, Power Resources, and Economic Inequality". American Journal of Sociology. 125 (5): 1255–1302. doi:10.1086/708067. ISSN 0002-9602. S2CID 219517711.
  59. ^ Western, Bruce; Rosenfeld, Jake (1 August 2011). "Unions, Norms, and the Rise in U.S. Wage Inequality". American Sociological Review. 76 (4): 513–537. doi:10.1177/0003122411414817. ISSN 0003-1224. S2CID 18351034.
  60. ^ Barth, Erling; Bryson, Alex; Dale-Olsen, Harald (16 October 2020). "Union Density Effects on Productivity and Wages". The Economic Journal. 130 (631): 1898–1936. doi:10.1093/ej/ueaa048. ISSN 0013-0133.
  61. ^ Van den Berg, Annette, Arjen van Witteloostuijn, and Olivier Van der Brempt. "Employee workplace representation in Belgium: Effects on firm performance." International Journal of Manpower (2017).
  62. ^ Hirsch, Barry T. "What do unions do for economic performance?." Journal of Labor Research 25, no. 3 (2004): 415–455.
  63. ^ Vedder, Richard, and Lowell Gallaway. "The economic effects of labor unions revisited." Journal of labor research 23, no. 1 (2002): 105-130.
  64. ^ Bryson, Alex. "Union wage effects." IZA World of Labor (2014).
  65. ^ Kramarz, Francis (19 October 2006). "Outsourcing, Unions, and Wages: Evidence from data matching imports, firms, and workers" (PDF). Retrieved 22 January 2007.
  66. ^ Card David, Krueger Alan. (1995). Myth and measurement: The new economics of the minimum wage. Princeton, NJ. Princeton University Press.
  67. ^ Friedman, Milton (2007). Price theory ([New ed.], 3rd printing ed.). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. ISBN 978-0202309699.
  68. ^ Abdul-Razzak, Nour; Prato, Carlo; Wolton, Stephane (1 October 2020). "After Citizens United: How outside spending shapes American democracy". Electoral Studies. 67: 102190. doi:10.1016/j.electstud.2020.102190. ISSN 0261-3794.
  69. ^ Macdonald, David (25 June 2020). "Labor Unions and White Democratic Partisanship". Political Behavior. 43 (2): 859–879. doi:10.1007/s11109-020-09624-3. ISSN 1573-6687. S2CID 220512676.
  70. ^ Hertel-Fernandez, Alexander (2018). "Policy Feedback as Political Weapon: Conservative Advocacy and the Demobilization of the Public Sector Labor Movement". Perspectives on Politics. 16 (2): 364–379. doi:10.1017/S1537592717004236. ISSN 1537-5927.
  71. ^ Becher, Michael; Stegmueller, Daniel (2020). "Reducing Unequal Representation: The Impact of Labor Unions on Legislative Responsiveness in the U.S. Congress". Perspectives on Politics. 19: 92–109. doi:10.1017/S153759272000208X. ISSN 1537-5927. S2CID 204825962.
  72. ^ Engeman, Cassandra (2020). "When Do Unions Matter to Social Policy? Organized Labor and Leave Legislation in US States". Social Forces. 99 (4): 1745–1771. doi:10.1093/sf/soaa074.
  73. ^ Bucci, Laura C.; Jansa, Joshua M. (2020). "Who passes restrictive labour policy? A view from the States". Journal of Public Policy. 41 (3): 409–439. doi:10.1017/S0143814X20000070. ISSN 0143-814X. S2CID 216258517.
  74. ^ Becher, Michael; Stegmueller, Daniel (2020). "Reducing Unequal Representation: The Impact of Labor Unions on Legislative Responsiveness in the U.S. Congress". Perspectives on Politics. 19: 92–109. doi:10.1017/S153759272000208X. ISSN 1537-5927.
  75. ^ Engeman, Cassandra (2020). "When Do Unions Matter to Social Policy? Organized Labor and Leave Legislation in US States". Social Forces. 99 (4): 1745–1771. doi:10.1093/sf/soaa074. Event history analysis of state-level leave policy adoption from 1983 to 2016 shows that union institutional strength, particularly in the public sector, is positively associated with the timing of leave policy adoption.
  76. ^ Frymer, Paul; Grumbach, Jacob M. (2020). "Labor Unions and White Racial Politics". American Journal of Political Science. 65: 225–240. doi:10.1111/ajps.12537. ISSN 1540-5907. S2CID 221245953.
  77. ^ Macdonald, David (29 April 2019). "How Labor Unions Increase Political Knowledge: Evidence from the United States". Political Behavior. 43: 1–24. doi:10.1007/s11109-019-09548-7. ISSN 1573-6687. S2CID 159071392.
  78. ^ Eisenberg‐Guyot, Jerzy; Mooney, Stephen J.; Hagopian, Amy; Barrington, Wendy E.; Hajat, Anjum (2020). "Solidarity and disparity: Declining labor union density and changing racial and educational mortality inequities in the United States". American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 63 (3): 218–231. doi:10.1002/ajim.23081. ISSN 1097-0274. PMC 7293351. PMID 31845387. Results – Overall, a 10% increase in union density was associated with a 17% relative decrease in overdose/suicide mortality (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.70, 0.98), or 5.7 lives saved per 100 000 person‐years (95% CI: −10.7, −0.7). Union density's absolute (lives‐saved) effects on overdose/suicide mortality were stronger for men than women, but its relative effects were similar across genders. Union density had little effect on all‐cause mortality overall or across subgroups, and modeling suggested union‐density increases would not affect mortality inequities. Conclusions - Declining union density (as operationalized in this study) may not explain all‐cause mortality inequities, although increases in union density may reduce overdose/suicide mortality.
  79. ^ Zoorob, Michael (1 October 2018). "Does 'right to work' imperil the right to health? The effect of labour unions on workplace fatalities". Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 75 (10): 736–738. doi:10.1136/oemed-2017-104747. ISSN 1351-0711. PMID 29898957. S2CID 49187014. Retrieved 31 January 2022. The Local Average Treatment Effect of a 1% decline in unionisation attributable to RTW is about a 5% increase in the rate of occupational fatalities. In total, RTW laws have led to a 14.2% increase in occupational mortality through decreased unionisation.
  80. ^ History of the ACTU. Archived 21 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine Australian Council of Trade Unions.
  81. ^ a b Markey, Raymond (1 January 1996). "Race and Organized Labor in Australia, 1850–1901". The Historian. Archived from the original on 19 October 2017.
  82. ^ a b Griffiths, Phil (4 July 2002). "Towards White Australia: The shadow of Mill and the spectre of slavery in the 1880s debates on Chinese immigration" (RTF). 11th Biennial National Conference of the Australian Historical Association. Retrieved 14 June 2006.
  83. ^ "For Whom The Bells Toll". Hatheway Labour Exhibit Center. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
  84. ^ "History of Unions in Canada". Archived from the original on 27 July 2013. Retrieved 15 July 2013. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  85. ^ Schneider 1991.
  86. ^ Moses, pp. 1–19.
  87. ^ Braunthal 1956.
  88. ^ Fulton, L. (2015). "Trade Unions. Worker Participation. SEEurope Network". SEEurope Network. Retrieved 15 November 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  89. ^ "Aantal leden christelijke vakbond neemt jaar na jaar toe". Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  90. ^ "130 jaar ACV-geschiedenis". Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  91. ^ "Hoeveel leden telt het ABVV? – Vlaams ABVV – Socialistische vakbond in Vlaanderen – Algemeen Belgisch Vakverbond ABVV". Archived from the original on 19 December 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  92. ^ "Structuur en kerncijfers van de ACLVB". 12 October 2015. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  93. ^ "Geschiedenis van de ACLVB". 12 October 2015. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  94. ^[bare URL PDF]
  95. ^ Pegenaute, Luis. "Censoring Translation and Translation as Censorship: Spain under Franco" (PDF). Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  96. ^ Romanos, Eduardo (2014). "Emotions, Moral Batteries and High-Risk Activism: Understanding the Emotional Practices of the Spanish Anarchists under Franco's Dictatorship". Contemporary European History. 23 (4): 545–564. doi:10.1017/S0960777314000319. JSTOR 43299690. S2CID 145621496.
  97. ^ "Syndicalism and the influence of anarchism in France, Italy and Spain" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2021. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  98. ^ Anders Kjellberg (2022) The Nordic Model of Industrial Relations. Lund: Department of Sociology]
  99. ^ "Trade Union Density" OECD. Accessed: 06 October 2019.
  100. ^ Anders Kjellberg (2020) Kollektivavtalens täckningsgrad samt organisationsgraden hos arbetsgivarförbund och fackförbund, Department of Sociology, Lund University. Studies in Social Policy, Industrial Relations, Working Life and Mobility. Research Reports 2020:1, Appendix 3 (in English) Table A
  101. ^ Anders Kjellberg (2011) "The Decline in Swedish Union Density since 2007" Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies (NJWLS) Vol. 1. No 1 (August 2011), pp. 67–93
  102. ^ Anders Kjellberg "The Decline in Swedish Union Density since 2007" Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies (NJWLS) Vol. 1. No 1 (August 2011), pp. 67–93
  103. ^ Anders Kjellberg (2020) Den svenska modellen i en oviss tid. Fack, arbetsgivare och kollektivavtal på en föränderlig arbetsmarknad – Statistik och analyser: facklig medlemsutveckling, organisationsgrad och kollektivavtalstäckning 2000–2029". Stockholm: Arena Idé 2020
  104. ^ Anders Bruhn, Anders Kjellberg and Åke Sandberg (2013) "A New World of Work Challenging Swedish Unions" in Åke Sandberg (ed.) Nordic Lights. Work, Management and Welfare in Scandinavia. Stockholm: SNS (pp. 155–160)
  105. ^ Dvorak, Jaroslav; Karnite, Raita; Guogis, Arvydas (26 January 2018). "The Characteristic Features of Social Dialogue in the Baltics". Socialinė teorija, empirija, politika ir praktika. 16 (16): 26–36. doi:10.15388/STEPP.2018.16.11425.
  106. ^ Dvorak, J., Civinskas, R. (2018). The Determinants of Cooperation and the Need for Better Communication between Stakeholders in EU Countries: The Case of Posted Workers. Polish Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 18 (1), pp. 94–106
  107. ^ "Table 1: Aggregate data on membership of CTUOs 1989 to 2002 (Provisional)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 October 2011.
  108. ^ Sengupta, Meghna. "Trade Unions in India". Pocket Lawyer. Archived from the original on 16 November 2017. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  109. ^ Datta, Rekah. "From Development to Empowerment: The Self-Employed Women's Association in India". International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society.
  110. ^ Bhattacharya, Gautam (2022). "Trade Unionism in Competitive Politics: The Story of an Arrangement Clerk", The Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol. 57, No. 4, April 2022 (pg.702-712)
  111. ^ Chand, Smriti (17 February 2014). "6 Major Central Trade Unions of India". Your Article Library. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  112. ^ a b Nimura, K. The Formation of Japanese Labor Movement: 1868–1914 Archived 1 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine (Translated by Terry Boardman). Retrieved 11 June 2011
  113. ^ a b c Cross Currents. Labor unions in Japan. CULCON. Retrieved 11 June 2011
  114. ^ Weathers, C. (2009). Business and Labor. In William M. Tsutsui (Ed.), A Companion to Japanese History (pp. 493–510). Chichester, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
  115. ^ Jung, L. (30 March 2011). National Labour Law Profile: Japan. ILO. Retrieved 10 June 2011
  116. ^ Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training. Labor Situation in Japan and Analysis: 2009/2010. Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 10 June 2011
  117. ^ Dolan, R. E. & Worden, R. L. (Eds.). Japan: A Country Study. Labor Unions, Employment and Labor Relations. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1994. Retrieved 12 June 2011
  118. ^ a b c Dan La Botz U.S.-supported Economics Spurred Mexican Emigration, pt.1 Archived 19 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine, interview at The Real News, 1 May 2010.
  119. ^ Murillo, M. Victoria. "From populism to neoliberalism: Labor unions and market reforms in Latin America." World Politics 52.2 (2000): 135-168 [ online.
  120. ^ American Center for International Labor Solidarity (2006), Justice For All: The Struggle for Worker Rights in Colombia Archived 17 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine, p11
  121. ^ An ILO mission in 2000 reported that "the number of assassinations, abductions, death threats and other violent assaults on trade union leaders and unionized workers in Colombia is without historical precedent". According to the Colombian Government, during the period 1991–99 there were 593 assassinations of trade union leaders and unionized workers while the National Trade Union School holds that 1 336 union members were assassinated." – ILO, 16 June 2000, Special ILO Representative for cooperation with Colombia to be appointed by Director-General
  122. ^ "By the 1990s, Colombia had become the most dangerous country in the world for unionists" – Chomsky, Aviva (2008), Linked labor histories: New England, Colombia, and the making of a global working class, Duke University Press, p11
  123. ^ "Colombia has the world's worst record on these assassinations..." – 20 November 2008, Colombia: Not Time for a Trade Deal
  124. ^ a b International Trade Union Confederation, 11 June 2010, ITUC responds to the press release issued by the Colombian Interior Ministry concerning its survey
  125. ^ International Trade Union Confederation (2010), Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights: Colombia
  126. ^ a b c "Historia del Sindicalismo". SITRAPEQUIA website (in Spanish). San José: Sindicato de Trabajadores(as) Petroléros Químicos y Afines. 2014. Archived from the original on 5 May 2014. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  127. ^ Herrera, Manuel (30 April 2014). "Sindicatos alzarán la voz contra modelo neoliberal en celebraciones del 1° de mayo". La Nacion (in Spanish). San Jose. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
  128. ^ Schifferes, Steve (8 March 2004). "The trade unions' long decline". BBC News. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  129. ^ "United Kingdom: Industrial relations profile". EUROPA. 15 April 2013. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  130. ^ Kazin, Michael (1995). The Populist Persuasion. BasicBooks. p. 154. ISBN 978-0465037933.
  131. ^ Trade Union Density OECD. StatExtracts. Retrieved: 17 November 2011.
  132. ^ Yeselson, Richard (6 June 2012). "Not With a Bang, But a Whimper: The Long, Slow Death Spiral of America's Labor Movement". The New Republic. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  133. ^ Union Members Summary Bureau of Labor Statistics, 22 January 2021 Retrieved: 13 July 2021
  134. ^ Devaney, Tim. "Union membership at lowest point since 1930s". The Washington Times. Retrieved 29 December 2022.
  135. ^ 8-31-2004 Union Membership Trends in the United States Gerald Mayer. Congressional Research Service. 31 Aug 2004


  • Braunthal, Gerard (1956). "The German Free Trade Unions during the Rise of Nazism". Journal of Central European Affairs. 14 (4): 339–353.
  • Cole, G. D. H. (2010). Attempts at General Union. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1136885167.
  • James, Robert Noel (2001). Craft, Trade or Mystery. Tighes Hill, New South Wales.
  • Moses, John A. (December 1973). "The Trade Union Issue In German Social Democracy 1890-1900". Internationale Wissenschaftliche Korrespondenz zur Geschichte der Deutschen Arbeiterbewegung (19/20): 1–19.
  • Schneider, Michael (1991). A brief history of the German trade unions. Bonn: JHW Dietz Nachfolger.
  • Webb, Sidney; Webb, Beatrice (1920). "Chapter I". History of Trade Unionism. Longmans and Co. London.

Further reading[edit]

  • Docherty, James C. (2004). Historical Dictionary of Organized Labor.
  • Docherty, James C. (2010). The A to Z of Organized Labor.
  • St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide : Major Events in Labor History and Their Impact ed by Neil Schlager (2 vol. 2004)


  • Aldcroft, D. H. and Oliver, M. J., eds. Trade Unions and the Economy, 1870–2000. (2000).
  • Campbell, A., Fishman, N., and McIlroy, J. eds. British Trade Unions and Industrial Politics: The Post-War Compromise 1945–64 (1999).
  • Clegg, H.A. (1964). 1889-1910. A History of British Trade Unions Since 1889. Vol. I.
  • Clegg, H.A. (1985). 1911-1933. A History of British Trade Unions Since 1889. Vol. II.
  • Clegg, H.A. (1994). 1934-1951. A History of British Trade Unions Since 1889. Vol. III.
  • Davies, A. J. (1996). To Build a New Jerusalem: Labour Movement from the 1890s to the 1990s.
  • Laybourn, Keith (1992). A history of British trade unionism c. 1770–1990.
  • Minkin, Lewis (1991). The Contentious Alliance: Trade Unions and the Labour Party. p. 708.
  • Pelling, Henry (1987). A history of British trade unionism.
  • Wrigley, Chris, ed. British Trade Unions, 1945–1995 (Manchester University Press, 1997)
  • Zeitlin, Jonathan (1987). "From labour history to the history of industrial relations". Economic History Review. 40 (2): 159–184.
  • Directory of Employer's Associations, Trade unions, Joint Organisations. Her Majesty's Stationery Office. 1986. ISBN 0113612508.


  • Berghahn, Volker R., and Detlev Karsten. Industrial Relations in West Germany (Bloomsbury Academic, 1988).
  • European Commission, Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion: Industrial Relations in Europe 2010.
  • Gumbrell-McCormick, Rebecca, and Richard Hyman. Trade unions in western Europe: Hard times, hard choices (Oxford UP, 2013).
  • Kjellberg, Anders. "The Decline in Swedish Union Density since 2007", Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies (NJWLS) Vol. 1. No 1 (August 2011), pp. 67–93.
  • Kjellberg, Anders (2017) The Membership Development of Swedish Trade Unions and Union Confederations Since the End of the Nineteenth Century (Studies in Social Policy, Industrial Relations, Working Life and Mobility). Research Reports 2017:2. Lund: Department of Sociology, Lund University.
  • Markovits, Andrei. The Politics of West German Trade Unions: Strategies of Class and Interest Representation in Growth and Crisis (Routledge, 2016).
  • McGaughey, Ewan, 'Democracy or Oligarchy? Models of Union Governance in the UK, Germany and US' (2017)
  • Misner, Paul. Catholic Labor Movements in Europe. Social Thought and Action, 1914–1965 (2015). online review
  • Mommsen, Wolfgang J., and Hans-Gerhard Husung, eds. The development of trade unionism in Great Britain and Germany, 1880–1914 (Taylor & Francis, 1985).
  • Ribeiro, Ana Teresa. "Recent Trends in Collective Bargaining in Europe." E-Journal of International and Comparative Labour Studies 5.1 (2016). online Archived 11 January 2017 at the Wayback Machine
  • Upchurch, Martin, and Graham Taylor. The Crisis of Social Democratic Trade Unionism in Western Europe: The Search for Alternatives (Routledge, 2016).

United States[edit]

  • Arnesen, Eric, ed. Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History (2006), 3 vol; 2064pp; 650 articles by experts excerpt and text search
  • Beik, Millie, ed. Labor Relations: Major Issues in American History (2005) over 100 annotated primary documents excerpt and text search
  • Boris, Eileen, and Nelson Lichtenstein, eds. Major Problems In The History Of American Workers: Documents and Essays (2002)
  • Brody, David. In Labor's Cause: Main Themes on the History of the American Worker (1993) excerpt and text search
  • Guild, C. M. (2021). Union Library Workers Blog: The Years 2019-2020 in Review. Progressive Librarian, 48, 110–165.
  • Dubofsky, Melvyn, and Foster Rhea Dulles. Labor in America: A History (2004), textbook, based on earlier textbooks by Dulles.
  • Taylor, Paul F. The ABC-CLIO Companion to the American Labor Movement (1993) 237pp; short encyclopedia
  • Zieger, Robert H., and Gilbert J. Gall, American Workers, American Unions: The Twentieth Century(3rd ed. 2002) excerpt and text search


  • Alexander, Robert Jackson, and Eldon M. Parker. A history of organized labor in Brazil (Greenwood, 2003).
  • Dean, Adam. 2022. Opening Up By Cracking Down: Labor Repression and Trade Liberalization in Democratic Developing Countries. Cambridge University Press.
  • Hodder, A. and L. Kretsos, eds. Young Workers and Trade Unions: A Global View (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2015). review
  • Kester, Gérard. Trade unions and workplace democracy in Africa (Routledge, 2016).
  • Lenti, Joseph U. Redeeming the Revolution: The State and Organized Labor in Post-Tlatelolco Mexico (University of Nebraska Press, 2017).
  • Levitsky, Steven, and Scott Mainwaring. "Organized labor and democracy in Latin America." Comparative Politics (2006): 21-42 online.
  • Lipton, Charles (1967). The Trade Union Movement of Canada: 1827–1959. (3rd ed. Toronto, Ont.: New Canada Publications, 1973).
  • Orr, Charles A. "Trade Unionism in Colonial Africa" Journal of Modern African Studies, 4 (1966), pp. 65–81
  • Panitch, Leo & Swartz, Donald (2003). From consent to coercion: The assault on trade union freedoms (third edition. Ontario: Garamound Press).
  • Taylor, Andrew. Trade Unions and Politics: A Comparative Introduction (Macmillan, 1989).
  • Visser, Jelle. "Union membership statistics in 24 countries." Monthly Labor Review. 129 (2006): 38+ online
  • Visser, Jelle. "ICTWSS: Database on institutional characteristics of trade unions, wage setting, state intervention and social pacts in 34 countries between 1960 and 2007." Institute for Advanced Labour Studies, AIAS, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam (2011). online

External links[edit]