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Portal:Organized Labour
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Introduction
Image created by Walter Crane to celebrate International Workers' Day (May Day, 1 May), 1889. The image depicts workers from the five populated continents (Africa, Asia, Americas, Australia and Europe) in unity underneath an angel representing freedom, fraternity and equality.
A trade union (or a labor union in American English), often simply called a union, is an organization of workers who have come together to achieve many common goals, such as protecting the integrity of their trade, improving safety standards, and attaining better wages, benefits (such as vacation, health care, and retirement), and working conditions through the increased bargaining power wielded by the creation of a monopoly of the workers. Trade unions typically fund the formal organization, head office, and legal team functions of the trade union through regular fees or union dues. The delegate staff of the trade union representation in the workforce are made up of workplace volunteers who are appointed by members in democratic elections.
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". This may include the negotiation of wages, work rules, occupational health and safety standards, 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), 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. (Full article...)
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In the UK in 2012, of the total working population 29.6 million people were employed, there was 8.1% unemployment, and 73.4% without union membership. The average income was £25,498, and the average working week was 41.4 hours.
United Kingdom labour law regulates the relations between workers, employers and trade unions. People at work in the UK benefit from a minimum charter of employment rights, which are found in various Acts, Regulations, common law and equity. This includes the right to a minimum wage of £8.91 for over-25-year-olds under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998. The Working Time Regulations 1998 give the right to 28 days paid holidays, breaks from work, and attempts to limit excessively long working hours. The Employment Rights Act 1996 gives the right to leave for child care, and the right to request flexible working patterns. The Pensions Act 2008 gives the right to be automatically enrolled in a basic occupational pension, whose funds must be protected according to the Pensions Act 1995.
To get fair labour standards beyond the minimum, the most important right is to collectively participate in decisions about how an enterprise is managed. This works through collective bargaining, underpinned by the right to strike, and a growing set of rights of direct workplace participation. Workers must be able to vote for trustees of their occupational pensions under the Pensions Act 2004. In some enterprises, such as universities, staff can vote for the directors of the organisation. In enterprises with over 50 staff, workers must be informed and consulted about major economic developments or difficulties. This happens through a steadily increasing number of work councils, which usually must be requested by staff. However, the UK does not follow European standards in requiring all employees to have a vote for their company's board of directors, alongside private sector shareholders, or government authorities in the public sector. Collective bargaining, between democratically organised trade unions and the enterprise's management, has been seen as a "single channel" for individual workers to counteract the employer's abuse of power when it dismisses staff or fix the terms of work. Collective agreements are ultimately backed up by a trade union's right to strike: a fundamental requirement of democratic society in international law. Under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 strikes are basically lawful if they are "in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute".
As well as having rights for fair treatment, the Equality Act 2010 requires that people are treated equally, unless there is a good justification, based on their gender, race, sexual orientation, beliefs and age. To combat social exclusion, employers must positively accommodate the needs of disabled people. Part-time staff, agency workers, and people on fixed-term contracts are treated generally equally compared to full-time or permanent staff. To tackle unemployment, all employees are entitled to reasonable notice before dismissal after a qualifying period of a month, after two years they can only be dismissed for a fair reason, and are entitled to a redundancy payment if their job was no longer economically necessary. If an enterprise is bought or outsourced, the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 require that employees' terms cannot be worsened without a good economic, technical or organisational reason. The purpose of these rights is to ensure people have dignified living standards, whether or not they have the relative bargaining power to get good terms and conditions in their contract. (Full article...)
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International Labour Organization1912 Lawrence textile strikeSpartacist uprisingLabour movementEight-hour dayLabor rightsSolidarity ForeverStrike actionChild labourIndustrial unionismOne Big Union (concept)Business unionismLabour Party (UK)Company unionIndustrial unionismJimmy HoffaUniversity and College UnionAnti-union violenceCesar ChavezInternational Brotherhood of TeamstersCollective bargainingUnited Auto WorkersUnited Farm WorkersProject Labor AgreementLabour economicsNational Labor Relations Act of 1935Miners' Federation of Great BritainInternational Workers' DayAll-China Federation of Trade UnionsCongress of South African Trade UnionsCredit unionPolice Benevolent Association of the City of New YorkGeneral Confederation of Labour (France)IG Metall​AFL–CIO​International Brotherhood of Electrical WorkersSolidarity (Polish trade union)United SteelworkersNational Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport WorkersUnited Food and Commercial WorkersNational Education AssociationService Employees International UnionItalian Labour UnionSeattle General StrikeAmerican Federation of Labor
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"Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts."
— Molly Ivins.
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