The role of labor and unions in the 21st century sample essay - Essay Prowess

The role of labor and unions in the 21st century sample essay

The role of labor and unions in the 21st century sample essay


The role of labor and unions in the 21st century


A labor union refers to association of workers to achieve mutual goals such as enhanced pays, welfares, and promotion guidelines. From the ongoing trend, employees’ number in unions has drastically dropped which was not the case many years ago. Work places have experienced dynamic changes over the years as the employers’ and employees needs vary as well. In the twentieth century, unions were well rooted and usually fought for the welfare of workers. However, although the bargaining power used to obtain effectiveness, the members still argued to have not participated in the formulated rules (Okun, Watkins & Schulte et al.2017). The paper will focus on labor unions development, growth, the future perspective and their impact on organizations and labor the market.

Contrary to how it was in the past where trade unions used to fight for members’ rights independently and peacefully, nowadays the case appears different as the unions engage in protests over what is said to pertain empowerment, employee involvement, and corporation. Hopes for the betterment of the unions got expected in the 21st century in which there existed notion that they would bring sanity to organizations whereby the workplaces could get rendered democratic to cater for the workers welfare. The many struggles to convert organizations into democratic institutions become an issue especially in the US because most of the labor statutes got developed in the political atmosphere which was quite distinct from the current needs (Rogers & Archer, 2017).

In a case study, a local union leadership wrote to a manager demanding for the removal of Action Tree for lack of support by part of the management. The proposed meeting never took place. Information reached the union that, the plant manager was out and that the union’s grievances would not get listened to soon. Probably, the plant manager got fired in a period of one month for failing to achieve the aims as postulated in the Action Tree. Such an issue got addressed in a manner regarding that the manager could not convince the management as there lacked bargaining power. If such an employee would have gotten accommodated in a union, he could not easily lose the job. Common bargaining power of a union plays a great role in ensuring that employees’ rights get upheld.

Despite the notion that unions act to oppose the organization’s management, both should work collectively to ensure that workers get satisfied and that they undertake the roles given to them. An organization cannot run without the labor force and hence the employees should get consideration by the senior management as part of business asset rather than liability. Therefore, the role of worker welfare should become the business’ role before external enforcement comes in.


History and development of unions

Trade unions originated from Europe during the Industrial Revolution era whereby employees were acquainted with inadequate skills such that all authority remained with the employer. In such cases exploitation became possible as workers were unaware of their rights and privileges. The exploitations included, underpayment, overworking and sometimes denied payments In the US, prevalence of unions got observed during the development of railways in 1860s. The laborers obtained low wages and threatening for death and injuries as no rules safeguarding them existed (Lenin & Chretien, 2015)

The challenges led to the development of brotherhood associations to safeguard workers from such atrocities, a move that led to sacking of many workers who joined the associations. In the US the National Labor Union was the first to get formed and led to the development of other labor unions. The union aimed at lobbying the government to allow labor reforms and began by the emphasis of working for eight hours a day. AFL-CIO and CTW are the main labor unions in the United States although not affiliated to the national union. The national union becomes mandated in legislative transformation while the local unions get concerned with collective bargaining agreements to enhance workers protection. Besides legislative measures, the national union get mandated in solution of disputes between unions, assistance in organizing national contests, support to other unions and take part in formulation of workers’ rights laws (Lenin & Chretien, 2015)

Current position of unions

The labor unions are currently faced by challenges to an extent of seeing members draw out from them. Globalization and employer’s need to eliminate the movements has caused great challenges which have led to diminishing of the unions’ activities. The decline has become believed to be cultural through capitalism which emphasizes on individualism where collectivism gets discouraged. The fight against unions by the employers sometimes result from their tendencies to raise issues in chaotic manner and most of the times leading in demonstrations.

Globalization issue affects the unions in that the traditional localized industries become transferred to overseas. Corruption issues have gotten related to unions whereby the management fail in lack credibility. In majority of countries in the world, decline has become experienced although a few of them still succeed in unions. The highly populated countries are said to retain a high percentage of union membership compared to the less populated countries (Watts, 2018).

In a certain instance in the US Wisconsin made a proposal to regulate the collective bargaining power for the reviving of the declining budget. The move faced criticism claiming that it seemed that the governor tried to cripple the power of unions. However, the move succeeded so that the budget could become salvaged. The globalization aspect has led unions fight for consideration and support by governments, a move which has succeeded but in a very small percentage. International trade unions such as NAFTA have become formed in which free trade get enhanced. Companies tend to rebel union membership for reasons such as increased cost and lack of sufficient control by the organization. As a result, the industries end up spending more resources than desired and the unions could also demand for the workers’ rights without engaging the company.

In formation of unions, two methods get employed. The first method involve a union approaching a group of employees and raise the issue of union formation or the employees could approach a union and propose for a union of their own. Gathering of signatures then follow together with secret-ballot election. Alternatively, card check method in which the organizer offers the cards which hold signs from simple majority. The desire of a union gets based on getting as many members as possible and this leads the union in political arena to support the best candidates. Organizers obtain training from the union leaders to enhance their suitability and encourage supporters to apply for job opportunities in regions where unions have no wide base to obtain new members.

However, most companies rebel unions such that they employ various strategies to avoid them. The organizations operations are believed to get adverse effects from the movements in terms of cost and operations. Notions such as collective bargaining usually work for the workers’ welfare without regarding the company in most times. To avoid unionization, the companies usually provides the best terms for employees to restrict them from the desire of having unions (Watts, 2018).

Impact of unions in an organization

Due to the fact that union workers get paid higher wages as payments, the company develops financial challenges when trying to cater for the higher cost of labor. The aim of any company is to make the maximum profit using the lowest input cost possible. Salaries and wages becoming some of the organization’s expenditure tend to hinder the profit margin and may lead to losses if the number of workers becomes extremely high. Unions also tend to negatively impact the company’s management in the decision making process such as retrenchment of workers when the production drops. Some specifications get outlined by the union, for instance, the punishment type to an employee who undermines the contract with the company. 

Unions either decrease or increase labor supply and demand. In some instances the labor unions get compared to cartels in the way they impose their demands. Since higher wage rates coincide with less work in terms of the currency used, challenges get accrued to unions when negotiating increased wages and sometimes they focus on increment for labor demand. They may employ different methodologies in creating demand for labor including, enhancement of workers’ productivity, support for quotas and tariffs, encouragement for minimum income rise and taking part for support for rules on immigration.

Workers’ productivity usually get enhanced through training of the employees so that they may gain a competitive edge in the labor market. Low skilled employees usually get used in promotion of minimum income rise whereby the employees obtain low salaries just because the lack documents to support the skills they possess. As a result the gap on wage rates between the low skilled and high skilled becomes minimized. Support on quota for imported products ensures that the locally produced commodities get demanded for consumption. As more of the local products become used the demand for labor scales up in the local industry. Immigration restrictions are such that many people from outside the country become hindered in the entrance of the labor market (Rogers & Archer, 2017).

Effectiveness of unions to workers

As seen earlier, labor unions exist in most cases to benefit the workers while organizations feel adversely affected. They assist in improvement of wage rates whereby members become mobilized and empowered especially when the place of work seems to exploit them. The unions also get concerned with the members’ working conditions which they enforce if the management appears to exploit them. Training of workers also become mandated to the unions for the purpose of improving the effectiveness of the members in the job market.

Unions impose wage increment for employees and may effect promotions. Union members usually receive higher pays than non-members as a result of common bargaining power. Moreover, union workers get accrued to more benefits compared to their counterparts who operate independently. They are also mandated to balance the labor demand and supply whereby if the demand increases, wage rates increase and vice versa.

Job elimination by employers becomes prevented by unions in instances where the company may decide to stop production especially when constraints of high cost of labor prevail. However, the technique usually fails because if the production cost increases the cost of the finished commodity increases leading to low demand and therefore production becomes hindered automatically. Sometimes, there occurs exploitation of non-members by unions in such a way that, the mandate from the government to serve the interest of workers usually gets employed to all employees in the organization. As a result deduction of union fees from non-members salaries become common.

Unions affect the worth of fringe benefit on facilities such as health, insurance, bonuses and vacations. The percentage in fringe benefit for members usually falls at 20 percent while for non-members it amounts to 15 percent. Such disparity occurs because the wage rates for union members, amount to high level compared with the non-members.

Exit –voice hypothesis refers to a technique employed by unions inform employers of complaints regarding working situations, payments and other related work factors. The effectiveness of a single employee would become unfruitful and may lead to firing by the employer. The only solution for a non-union member would become through expression of dissatisfaction then quitting the job. A formal channel for airing grievances get provided by unions to air complains. The union then act as a voice for the employees and this doesn’t have negative impact on them compared to a situation where there lacks union. Probabilities of unionized members to quit jobs gets relatively low as their wages are high and minimal threatening by employer exist.

Union members rarely complain of dissatisfaction compared to their counterparts. The reason could be for the fact that the employer fears the union voice and as a result serves the employee to satisfaction levels. Due to offering of training by the union, the unionized members tend to compete favorably in the job market (Green & Carney, 2017).

Benefits to the company

Unions ensure that the members retain the highest levels of skills to enhance their reputation and compliance with the competitive edge in the industry. Frequent trainings facilitated by unions enhance productivity in the firm in which the member works. The firm also get relieved from the burden of employee search which appears as a complicated exercise in ensuring that the best skills get acquired. Unions provide guidelines and motivations to ensure that they provide the best input to the employer. Despite the benefit of high productivity, the high wages paid to the union workers reduces the company’s profit, rendering such companies to the ones making the least profits. Critical study indicates that the capital returns for unionized companies reduces by 19 percent compared to non-unionized ones.

The public sector

In the public sector, labor unions have taken a positive edge in that the government especially in the US mobilizes employees to join unions so that they might have an effective bargaining power. The government also believes that the movements enhance easier monitoring of workers as opposed to dealing with individuals. Such employees enhance to create inelastic demand- a demand that rarely shifts but remains constant for quite a long duration (Novitz, 2016).

However, chaos has arisen especially when the unions become politicized such that the politicians may influence the unions to mobilize their members so that they could win votes. Due to the constraints in the government sometimes, the public sector may not impose high wages on unionized members. Tax payers money becomes the sole source for funding the public workers meaning high wages would result into increment in taxes.


In the public sector constraints of unions become evident in that prohibition of strikes get prohibited in majority of states. Therefore, binding arbitration becomes the only method of solving disputes in the sector. Conventional arbitration refers to a situation whereby the two parties in chaos place their offer to an independent negotiator who acts as the judge in the case through comparison of the case and comes up with a solution. The final offer arbitration involves the two disputing parties presenting their offers however, the arbitrator must select one of the offers and the two parties must agree with the judgment (Green & Carney, 2017).

However it becomes important to investigate the method in which the arbitrator decided the judgment so that further disputes may get avoided because sometimes there occur cases in which the employers influence the judge’s decision. The conventional arbitration usually has expected outcomes by the employer and the union while the other one there occurs uncertainty as to what led to such decisions made. When preparing for the offers the two parties usually have a clue on where the judgment might fall such that they set the cases in a situation they get convinced the arbitrator would place the ruling.

To the contrary, the final- offer arbitration becomes somewhat different such that the judge decides to pick the best offer that becomes closer to their preferred verdict. In ensuring that there occurs favoritism on one side then critical thinking should get employed during design to ensure that the offer gets closer to the intended judgment. Outlying offers rarely become considered and become null and void.

Future position of labor unions

Starting from the past gradually to the present, the labor unions have faced drastic challenges which have progressively rendered their operations to a land slide. The main reasons as to why the decline has occurred become associated with the wake of the ever diversifying technological knowhow, need for individualism and globalization. The traditional labor unions have retained their model and objectives which does not seem to fit favorably in the current world. The trend in which the world changes technologically does not appear to stop soon (Huang, Jiang, Lie & Que, et al. 2017)

To compete in the current labor market the unions require transformation for them to cater for the current needs. Probably, in the years to come, the technology advancement would get into levels such that the trade unions may never appear sensible unless they become formulated to serve those future needs. Otherwise, the focus on the traditional set up may never bear positive fruits in addressing the matter of unions’ revival.


 Unions are important sectors in the labor market and in many instances have fought for workers right for better work environment and pay. If the slight changes necessary to accommodate the technological advancements could become dealt with, then they would continue to favorably serve the interest of workers and ensuring fairness in the market (Ehrenberg & Smith, 2016) However, the aspect of unions showing favoritism to employees and defaming the employers need rectification and a balance should get developed. However, employers need to visualize workers as part of the assets without which an organization would not run.


Ehrenberg, R. G., & Smith, R. S. (2016). Modern labor economics: Theory and public policy. Routledge.

Green, M. Z., & Carney, K. T. (2017). Can NFL Players Obtain Judicial Review of Arbitration Decisions on the Merits When a Typical Hourly Union Worker Cannot Obtain This Unusual Court Access. NYUJ Legis. & Pub. Pol’y, 20, 403.

Huang, Q., Jiang, F., Lie, E., & Que, T. (2017). The effect of labor unions on CEO compensation. Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, 52(2), 553-582.

Lenin, V. I., & Chretien, T. (2015

Lenin, V. I., & Chretien, T. (2015). State and revolution. Haymarket Books.

Okun, A. H., Watkins, J. P., & Schulte, P. A. (2017). Trade associations and labor organizations as intermediaries for disseminating workplace safety and health information. American journal of industrial medicine, 60(9), 766-775.

Rogers, B., & Archer, S. (2017). Protecting Concerted Action Outside the Union Context. Canadian Lab. & Emp. LJ, 20, 141.

Watts, J. R. (2018). Immigration policy and the challenge of globalization: Unions and employers in unlikely alliance. Cornell University Press