Trade union, also called labour union, association of workers in a particular trade, industry, or company created for the purpose of securing improvements in pay, benefits, working conditions, or social and political status through collective bargaining. Historical development As an organized movement, trade unionism originated in the 19th century in Great Britaincontinental Europe, and the United States.
Visit Website Did you know? In12 percent of American workers belonged to unions.
The early labor movement was, however, inspired by more than the immediate job interest of its craft members. It harbored a conception of the just society, deriving from the Ricardian labor theory of value and from the republican ideals of the American Revolutionwhich fostered social equality, celebrated honest labor, and relied on an independent, virtuous citizenship.
Most notable were the National Labor Union, launched inand the Knights of Laborwhich reached its zenith in the mids. But contemporaries saw no contradiction: The two were held to be strands of a single movement, rooted in a common working-class constituency and to some degree sharing a common leadership.
But equally important, they were strands that had to be kept operationally separate and functionally distinct. During the s, that division fatally eroded. Despite its labor reform rhetoric, the Knights of Labor attracted large numbers of workers hoping to improve their immediate conditions.
As the Knights carried on strikes and organized along industrial lines, the threatened national trade unions demanded that the group confine itself to its professed labor reform purposes; when it refused, they joined in December to form the American Federation of Labor afl.
The new federation marked a break with the past, for it denied to labor reform any further role in the struggles of American workers.
In part, the assertion of trade union supremacy stemmed from an undeniable reality. As industrialism matured, labor reform lost its meaning—hence the confusion and ultimate failure of the Knights of Labor.
Marxism taught Samuel Gompers and his fellow socialists that trade unionism was the indispensable instrument for preparing the working class for revolution.
The afl asserted as a formal policy that it represented all workers, irrespective of skill, race, religion, nationality, or gender.
But the national unions that had created the afl in fact comprised only the skilled trades. Almost at once, therefore, the trade union movement encountered a dilemma: As sweeping technological change began to undermine the craft system of production, some national unions did move toward an industrial structure, most notably in coal mining and the garment trades.
But most craft unions either refused or, as in iron and steel and in meat packing, failed to organize the less skilled. And since skill lines tended to conform to racial, ethnic, and gender divisions, the trade union movement took on a racist and sexist coloration as well.
For a short period, the afl resisted that tendency. Formally or informally, the color bar thereafter spread throughout the trade union movement. Inblacks made up scarcely 3 percent of total membership, most of them segregated in Jim Crow locals.
In the case of women and eastern European immigrants, a similar devolution occurred—welcomed as equals in theory, excluded or segregated in practice. Only the fate of Asian workers was unproblematic; their rights had never been asserted by the afl in the first place.
But the organizational dynamism of the labor movement was in fact located in the national unions. Only as they experienced inner change might the labor movement expand beyond the narrow limits—roughly 10 percent of the labor force—at which it stabilized before World War I. Partly because of the lure of progressive labor legislation, even more in response to increasingly damaging court attacks on the trade unions, political activity quickened after A trade union is “a continuous association of wage-earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment.”1 This means that it is a group of workers who unite to gain more power and leverage in bargaining.
A History of Britain's Trade Unions (Penguin ) About the author James G. Moher is a former national trade-union officer (legal and political), with a special interest in trade-union and labour history. It provides complete introduction about trade union, origin, history, evolution in Indian industrial scenario.
types of trade unions along with functions like bargaining, industrial relations, strike, employee protection and workforce welfare,etc. Trade Unions and Health and Saftey programme. Trade Union s and Health and Safety Since the mid ’s the trade union movement has played a pivotal role in health and safety at the workplace through the system of trade union appointed safety committees and safety representatives.
EVOLUTION OF TRADE UNIONS AND TRADE UNIONISM Before discussing the theories of trade unions there are different perceptions, assumptions with regard to trade unions which are associated with evolution of trade unions along with the evolution of industrial society.
The History and Evolution of Trade Unions A trade union is a continuos association of wage-earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment.
1 This means that it is a group of workers who unite to gain more power and leverage in bargaining.