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Labour Unions
updated by rck, 2005-01-20

Here's a summary for the Business English 1 lectures I've been attending this term. Today is the end-test, so it's a bit late. Then again, we did that topic last week so it's not as late as it might seem.

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What is a labour union?

A labour union is a a group of workes organized to protect their rights. Now this sounds a bit swollen, doesn't it? In simpler words, it's the concept of “in numbers, there is strength”

Management has the power of telling people what to work, paying them money if they do and fireing if they don't. Workers or employees can't throw out the management if they don't “behave”, on the other hand. And why should they, one might ask.

Anyway, that's where the labour union comes in. If things don't work out the way they should for employees or workers, they are able to focus their strength. And... protect their rights.

How to start a union.

As usual, by an election. Hey, the USA is a democratic nation. Like Austria, for example. At the union certification election there are a certain number of workers that will sign a paper. And they determine, wether there will be a union or not that way.

How to keep the union running.

What possibilities do unions have for the sought for “member lock-in”? Nowerdays, it's often not so easy to find out why one would want to join the union. If the benefits are not enough to keep a union running, there's that “shop concept”.

Depending on the state you live in (there are 50 US states), there's a certain shop policy. There are four of them.

Union shop
If you want to work for us, you have to join a union within a certain period. That's the most common form as of today.
Agency shop
You have to pay the union dues. Wether you join the union or not is up to you.
Closed shop
You're not in the union? Don't work here then. That's illegal since the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.
Open shop or “right to work”
There's no union. Forming one is illegal. That has also been made possible through the Taft-Hartley Act.

“Right to work”

“If there is no union, how will it be able to protect my rights?” That's one way to see things. Another way would be: Where would you rather open a company. Somewhere, where you are free to run the company the way you want it to? Or somewhere, where a union tells you, what to do?

Still, not every state knows about that concept. As Sharon Renshaw put it in a chat I had with her yesterday on this very site:

“Funny, I just heard "right to work" for the first time yesterday. My sister in law was in the union and moved to Arizona. They told her Arizone is a "right to work" state.”

There are 21 states having a right to work law.

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