Unions:Are they Necessary?
Unions:Are they Necessary?
Thisessay discusses the role played by the trade unions from the time ofIndustrial Revolution to the current times. The unions were veryimportant in the 19thand early 20thcenturies than they are today. They protected workers againstexploitation by their employers. The unions made significantgains inthe fight for the workers especially after World War II. Laborers gotbetter salaries and were provided with insurance healthbenefits. Someof these benefits were later enjoyed by workers who were not membersof any unions as well (Naughton, 2015). Despite the gains made by theunions, many people today consider them less relevant. Their role hasbeen taken over by government legislation. Employers now play a verybig role in ensuring their workers are well paid and work in safeconditions. Today, it is hard for employers to hire and keep highquality employees. Workers who want to earn better salaries and workin improved conditions should not necessarily wait for unions to doit for them. The work environment is now better to allow them workand get what they desire in the advancement of their careers.
Therole of unions has now changed from fighting for the rights ofworkers to trying to take control of the companies that hire theirmembers. This control is sought to determine the wages paid to theirmembers (Yeselson, 2012). This is counterproductive and has seen somefirms shut down their operations. Some once thriving companies arenow not able to finance their own activities and they have to turn tothe government for funding. To avoid the high costs of labor,companies are forced to set up factories in countries where labor ismuch more affordable.
Tradeunions are organizations which are formed by workers. The aim ofunions is to fight and protect for the privileges of the workers.Many trade unions operate independently from employers. However, mostof these unions have formed relationships with employers which helpthem identify common interests they can pursue jointly.In thebeginning, thedevelopment of unions was heavily opposed inmanycountries. Heavy penalties were imposed as punishment for thosewho organized unions (Hall-Jones, 2010). Despite this challenge,unions were eventually formed and became very powerful leading totheir legalization in 1871. Trade unions originated in Britain duringthe Industrial Revolution. Many people who were mainly unskilled orsemi-skilled were enrolled into the workforce. These people wouldlater be organized in unions. The labor union course has experienceda lot of changes over the years. This essay will evaluate whethertrade unions still have meaningtoday or not. It will providearguments for and against the place of these unions today.
Theefforts by trade unions to get recognition gained notable success in1894 when President Grover Cleveland put his signature to the lawthat made Labor Day a national holiday. This day is used to honoremployees all over the country, but it was the result ofvery hardwork by the unions. While the debate about the relevance of unionshas been raging since their early days, many people may not be awareof the gains these unions have made. Looking at the history ofAmerica will indicate successes made by these unions in their effortsto have better working conditions for their members. Before theIndustrial Revolution, many people used to work on farms. As moreindustries were set up, additional labor was required (Cole, 2010).People were moved from the farms to work in the factories. Everyoneincluding children were taken to these factories for very little orno wages. The authorities at that time did very little to protect theworkers in their places of work. The employees took the matter intheir own hands and started fighting for better working conditionsand improvedpay among other things. This is what led to the formationof trade unions.
Economistsagree that the most fruitful period for workers was after World WarII in the period from late 1940s to early 1970s. In this duration,there was a substantial rise in the wages the workers were paid.Apart from the wages, other benefits such as pension schemes andhealth insurance plans were also introduced. These achievements cameat a time when most of the workers in America were members of tradeunions. These gains were first granted to the workers holdingblue-collar jobs. White-collar employees soon started to enjoy thesame benefits too. As industries adopted the use of machinery intheir operations, injuries at the work place became very common(Armstrong, 2014). There were limited measures in the industry toprotect the workers. Owners of the factories were more interestedabout the profits they made than in the lives of the people whoworked for them.
Theunions gave the workers more power during negotiations forimprovedworking conditions. It was easier for the employers to payattention to the union than they would to individuals. Lone workerscan be intimidated and coerced into what the employer wants. Whenunited, workers form a formidable force that is hard be ignore. Tradeunions have helped to improve the employment conditions. The gainsthat unions werefighting for were eventually enjoyed by the peoplewho were not members of these unions. This could be the reason whysome people do not recognize the gains these unions have made duringtheir existence. Many people who areagainst the unions think that theunions are out to exploit the workers. This is not correct going bythe gains that they have achievedso far for the workers. The workersare involved in the formation of these unions and pass the rules tobe used in governing their organizations. Officials elected topositions of power in these bodies are responsible to fight for therights of their members (Botz, 2010). Their conduct while holdingnegotiations with employers is under the close watch of theconcernedauthorities. These organizations are subjected to morescrutiny by the government than any other business. Therefore, thereis little chance for the officials to deviate from their core mandateand start exploiting their members.
Despiteall the achievements of these unions, some people believe that theunions are no longer relevant. This notion is wrong as there areplenty that have been achieved by the unions. The issue of betterwages cannot be ignored. The unions have agitated for improvedremuneration for their members which has helped improve their livingconditions. Safety in the places of work has greatly improved andAmerica has some of the lowest workplace injuries compared to otherindustrialized countries. This has occurred as a result of efforts ofworkers unions. Employers have been opposed to the idea of theiremployees joining unions. Companies have tried different options tostop their workers from joining unions. Despite these efforts,America has a large number of its workers as members of trade unions.Workers who intend to join or are already members of unions have beenintimated by their employersin one way or another. Unions have raisedtheir voice against this and workers can continue with their dutieswithout being victimized (Cole, 2010). The interests of workers needto be fought for. There is no other avenue that can fight for theserights. There is no assurance that in the absence of unions,employerswill not mistreat their workers just to make profits. Theplace and importance of unions can therefore not be diluted in anyway.
Tradeunion membership has been on the decline over the years. There arevarious reasons that have resulted into this decline. Employers donothing to encourage their workers join these unions (Hall-Jones,2010). Actually, they would not like the idea of employees joiningany unions for fear of the repercussions on their profits. Thishappens despite the presence of laws aimed at ensuring employersallow their workers to be members of unions. If the unions were nolonger in existence, there would be no one to fight for their rights.The employers would exploit them any way they want. Therefore, unionsare as necessary todayas they were in the past. There are two otherfactors that have led to the decline in union membership. Thesefactorsare fearand complacency. In times when there are fewopportunity opportunities, workers fear joining any unions to avoidlosing their jobs (Cole, 2010). They fail to understand they aregranted by law the right to be members of any unions they choose.Complacency has effect when the union members do not see reason tomake their contributions out of their pay. As a result, this deniesunions, the resources they require to fight for workers rights in thebest way possible.
Althoughthere are many improvements in the working conditions in factories,everything cannot be left in the hands of the employers. A voice isneeded to sound the alarmwhen things go wrong. While there are manyemployers with the right intentions, there are still others who willexploit their workers. Unions should be there to raise the attentionof the authorities when things go wrong (Armstrong, 2014). People whowork under no union are not assured of the continuity of their jobsor get fair treatment at work. On the other hand, employees whoareunder a union know they have someone to talk on their behalf whenmatters are not working in their favor. Unions ensure that they getwhat they deserve during employment and when they are dismissed.
Itis true that the business environment is very competitive andemployers are mainly interested in remaining in business and makingprofits for their shareholders and investors. Employment costsconstitute a large portion of the expenditure of any business (Cole,2010). Employers would do anything to reduce this expense and reportprofits for their shareholders. Therefore, it is unlikely that theemployer will be fully trusted to take care of the interests of theemployees. Unions keep watch and raise the alarm when workers arepaidless than they deserve.
Gettingrid of the unions is not the right thing. It is true the relevance ofthe unions as constituted has changed. These bodies were well suitedfor the situation in the 1800s and 1900s. However, these bodies stillplay a great role in highlighting the plight of workers (Armstrong,2014). What needs to be done is for the unions to be reformed to fitin the current situation and work environment. For example, there aremany lawsthat have been passed to protect workers. Some of these lawsplay the role that would be played by the unions. Therefore, leadersof these bodies should make the necessary reforms to ensure thebodies do not become extinct.
Whilethere are many voice sin support of the unions, there are many morethat are against them. Those who believe that unions are extinctunions encourage laziness and incompetence in the workplace (Botz,2010). People are not motivated to do their best because there is aunion that will fight for better pay and other conditions. In thecurrent business environment, remuneration should be matched withproductivity. Many people who join unions do not bother to work hardsince they are assured of support from the union in case they aresacked.
Enterprisesshould be free to determine what they want to do in order to retaintheir position in the market. When the economic conditions are notsupportive, employers lay off someof their workers. This is notpossible when the employees are under a union. Unless the unionschange their stance, a company in a bad financial position can easilygo down (Hall-Jones, 2010). If that actually happens, the workerswill also be affected and the union will have nothing to do for themat that time. In this light, some unions are lesscombative and arewilling to work with the employers to find solutions to thechallenges being faced by worker sin the course of their duties.
Theworking conditions in many working places are very good. Safe workingconditions are used by employers as a way of attracting and retainingemployees. The employees are provided with health insurance to ensurethey are well motivated and give their best (Kjellberg, 2011).Employers take the initiative to make the work environment safe forall without being prompted. Therefore, workers’ unions will havenothing to do in such conditions.
Thereis improved oversight from the government. During the IndustrialRevolution, the authorities then were not concerned about whathappened in places of work. It was possible then to hire peopleincluding children. Today it is criminal to employ minors. There arevery strict laws against child labor and no company that is operatinglegally would try to breach them. Heavy penalties are imposed onthose who flout these regulations. Since the 20thcentury, the governments have been passing laws aimed at protectingworkers as they execute their duties. The Department of Labor takesthe initiative to find solutions to problems in the between workersand their employers (Naughton, 2015). Government intervention isnecessary to ensure there is limited disruption of trade whichaffects the economy negatively.
Thevalue of wages should be determined by the market forces. However,unions can escalate the wage expenses as they make their demandsatany time. A high wage bill will make enterprises not to grow as muchof their resources will go to the payment of salaries. Market forcesshould be allowed to set the amounts to be paid to workers. It isclear that wages set in a free market economy help in the growth ofenterprise and create employment. The unions can push firms out ofbusiness with their endless demands for increased wages (Yeselson,2012). Before they call for better wages, the unions should ensuretheir members are going to give more value commensurate with theincrease they are seeking. This is not the case.They only look aftertheir own interests and ignore that of the employer.
Thedesire to have improved pay is in everyone. The best to get the kindof pay you want is to work hard. While workers in a union wait forthe nest pay demand, those who believe in the spirit of freeenterprise work long hours to earn the pay they want to get. Peoplewho are in unions do not want to work an extra minute beyond theagreedtime (OECD, 2010). Even during the normal working hours, theywill not give their best since they have the union to come to theirrescue in case they are sacked. Unions make it difficult foremployers to get rid of workers who are add little or no value to thebusiness.
Whilethe sole aim of the unions is to fight for the rights of workers,they have been abused by some people with political aspirations.Large unions with many members are preferred by political candidateswho would get the block votes of such unions. The unionsdisruptactivities in cities when they call a strike (Yeselson, 2012). It isnow common for people to work in companies with no union. Many peoplewould give anything to for a chance to be employed there. These firmstreat their workers well and remunerate them according to theircompetence and value they add to the business.
Laborunion bosses lack commitment to the plight of workers. Such peopleare interested in the huge salaries they will get. Their main concernis the contributions made by the members than anything else. Thecontribution increases with a rise in the basic salary (Hall-Jones,2010). Therefore, while they are calling for better pay for theworkers, they are actually seeking their own pay hike. Many unionsare headed by people who have never been workers. This leads to aconflict of interest unlike in the past when the unions were led bypeople who were actually workers and who worked for the bestinterestsof their colleagues.
Thedecision to join a union should be left to an individual. Thosewhowant to join a union should be allowed to do it and those who do notwant should not be forced to. People who believe in free enterprisewill not be ready to join unions that kill personal imitative(Naughton, 2015). If you believe that your union is the only avenueto an improved pay check, it will be a very long time before yourdream is achieved.
Theinitial objective of trade unions was to fight for the rights of theworkers. This was noble in the circumstances prevailing then. Unionsare now interested in taking control of the firms where their memberswork. They hope by having control they will be able to awardtheirmembers high wages. They do not realize that this has countereffects. The money has to be produce before it can be used to paywages (Kjellberg, 2011). The three big auto makers in America havebeen taken over b the workers unions. These firms have theiroperations hampered and are no longer able to operate or thrive likethey used to in earlier times. Companies like GM have to rely onfederal funding since it was infiltrated by the unions.
Theinfiltration into these firms has ended up enriching the leaders ofthe unions. This leaves the form with very little finances tocontinue paying their workers well. The unions argue that thecompanies make huge profits that they do not use to pay bettersalaries to their members. Their actions end up in bringing down thefirms that have been around for many years. Today, many workers donot get the benefits of these unions as they should. Actually, theycould be getting better pay withoutmeddling from the unions(Hall-Jones 2010). Leaders in these unions are the ones who gain themost from activities disguised to be in the interests of the workers.
Thepublic sector has also been affected by the trade unions. Unionsguard incompetence and poor delivery of service. It is totallydifficult to remove incompetent teachers from classrooms. Thisaffects the students and the taxpayer whose money does not get theexpected returns. These unions are not concerned with the educationbeing provided in schools. They are after their own earnings whichcome from the salaries paid to teachers (Armstrong, 2014). The unionsoppose any kind of reforms thatwill affect their interests. In NewJersey, efforts by Gov. Cris Christie to reform the education sectorwere opposed by the teachers unions. This clearly shows that theseunions do not have the interest of the education of the children intheir hearts.
Alot of effort is required to change the way labor unions conductthemselves. Their existence is supported by legislation. Nothing canbe done about these unions unless the laws creating them can bechanged. These unions are not required anymore (Cole, 2010). Workersare free to make their choice if they like a job or not. There aremany places one can seek an alternative job if not happy with wherethey are. No one needs a union to speak on their behalf in order toremain in a job. Individual competence is the key to earning moremoney and other benefits at your place of work.
Theagitation by trade unions for higher wages has led to capital flight.Investors in America feel they cannot get the kind of returns theyexpect because the wage bills are too high. The end result is tobuild factoriesin other nations with more affordable labor. Theflight of investors affects the growth of the economy (Botz, 2010).In the worst situation, some of the firms can no longer withstand thedemands of the unions and they have to close shop. When they go downthey take all the workers with them.
Insummary, unions have played a very important role in changing theplight of workers. Their role was necessary as the authorities duringthe Industrial Revolution did very little to ensure workers weresafe. Today, governments play a very active role to ensure allworkers work in the best conditions. At the time of IndustrialRevolution, there were no laws enacted to control the labor market.While there are many people who feel that unions are still relevant,others think that their time is over (Armstrong, 2014). Those who areagainst unions feel that their activities are counterproductive andthey benefit the leaders more than the workers.
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