Trade union

A trade union (or a labor union in the U.S.) is an association of workers forming a legal unit or legal personhood, usually called a "bargaining unit", which acts as bargaining agent and legal representative for a unit of employees in all matters of law or right arising from or in the administration of a collective agreement. Labour unions typically fund the formal organization, head office, and legal team functions of the labour union through regular fees or union dues. The delegate staff of the labour union representation in the workforce are made up of workplace volunteers who are appointed by members in democratic elections.

Today, unions are usually formed for the purpose of securing improvement in pay, benefits, working conditions, or social and political status through collective bargaining by the increased bargaining power wielded by the banding of the workers.[1] The trade union, through an elected leadership and bargaining committee, 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".[2] This may include the negotiation of wages, work rules, complaint procedures, rules governing status of employees including promotions, just cause conditions for termination, and employment benefits.

Unions may organize a particular section of skilled workers (craft unionism),[3] 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.[4][5]

Definition

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."[2] 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).

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

Yet historian R.A. Leeson, in United we Stand (1971), said:

Two conflicting views of the trade-union movement strove for ascendancy in the nineteenth century: one the defensive-restrictive guild-craft tradition passed down through journeymen's clubs and friendly societies, ... the other the aggressive-expansionist drive to unite all 'labouring men and women' for a 'different order of things'.

Recent historical research by Bob James in Craft, Trade or Mystery (2001) 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 organizations.

The 18th century economist Adam Smith noted the imbalance in the rights of workers in regards to owners (or "masters"). In The Wealth of Nations, Book I, chapter 8, Smith wrote:

We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combination of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate[.]

When workers combine, masters ... never cease to call aloud for the assistance of the civil magistrate, and the rigorous execution of those laws which have been enacted with so much severity against the combination of servants, labourers and journeymen.

As Smith noted, unions were illegal for many years in most countries, although Smith argued that it should remain illegal to fix wages or prices by employees or employers. There were severe penalties for attempting to organize unions, up to and including execution. Despite this, unions were formed and began to acquire political power, eventually resulting in a body of labour law that not only legalized organizing efforts, but codified the relationship between employers and those employees organized into unions.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Vakbond
asturianu: Sindicatu
azərbaycanca: Həmkarlar ittifaqı
беларуская: Прафесійны саюз
català: Sindicat
čeština: Odbory
Cymraeg: Undeb llafur
Deutsch: Gewerkschaft
español: Sindicato
Esperanto: Sindikato
euskara: Sindikatu
فارسی: سندیکا
føroyskt: Fakfeløg
Gaeilge: Ceardchumann
Gàidhlig: Aonadh-ciùird
galego: Sindicato
한국어: 노동조합
हिन्दी: श्रमिक संघ
hrvatski: Sindikat
Bahasa Indonesia: Serikat pekerja
íslenska: Stéttarfélag
italiano: Sindacato
қазақша: Кәсіподақ
Кыргызча: Тред-юнионизм
latviešu: Arodbiedrība
Lëtzebuergesch: Gewerkschaft
lumbaart: Sindacaa
македонски: Синдикат
Bahasa Melayu: Kesatuan sekerja
Nederlands: Vakbond
日本語: 労働組合
norsk nynorsk: Fagorganisasjon
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਮਜ਼ਦੂਰ-ਸੰਘ
Papiamentu: Sindikato
português: Sindicato
română: Sindicat
rumantsch: Sindicat
Runa Simi: Sindikatu
Scots: Tred union
Simple English: Trades union
slovenčina: Odbory
slovenščina: Sindikat
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Sindikat
svenska: Fackförening
Türkçe: Sendika
українська: Професійна спілка
Tiếng Việt: Công đoàn
粵語: 工會
Zazaki: Sendika
中文: 工会