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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Trade Union: Wiki History Brief

Trade union

Labour union demonstrators surrounded by soldiers during the 1912 Lawrence textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
A trade union (British English), labour union (Canadian English) or labor union (American English) is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members (rank and file members) and negotiates labour contracts (collective bargaining) with employers. The most common, but by no means only, purpose of these organizations is "maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment".[1]

This may include the negotiation of wages, work rules, complaint procedures, rules governing hiring, firing and promotion of workers, benefits, workplace safety and policies. The agreements negotiated by the union leaders are binding on the rank and file members and the employer and in some cases on other non-member workers.

Originating in Europe, trade unions became popular in many countries during the Industrial Revolution, when the lack of skill necessary to perform most jobs shifted employment bargaining power almost completely to the employers' side, causing many workers to be mistreated and underpaid. Trade union organizations may be composed of individual workers, professionals, past workers, students, apprentices and/or the unemployed.

Over the last three hundred years, trade unions have developed into a number of forms. Aside from collective bargaining, activities vary, but may include:
  • Provision of benefits to members: Early trade unions, like Friendly Societies, often provided a range of benefits to insure members against unemployment, ill health, old age and funeral expenses. In many developed countries, these functions have been assumed by the state; however, the provision of professional training, legal advice and representation for members is still an important benefit of trade union membership.
  • Industrial action: Trade unions may enforce strikes or resistance to lockouts in furtherance of particular goals.
  • Political activity: Trade unions may promote legislation favourable to the interests of their members or workers as a whole. To this end they may pursue campaigns, undertake lobbying, or financially support individual candidates or parties (such as the Labour Party in Britain) for public office. In some countries (e.g., the Nordic countries and the Philippines), trade unions may be invited to participate in government hearings about educational or other labour market reforms.

The origins of unions' existence can be traced from the 18th century, where the rapid expansion of industrial society drew women, children, rural workers, and immigrants to the work force in numbers and in new roles. This pool of unskilled and semi-skilled labour spontaneously organised in fits and starts throughout its beginnings,[1] and would later be an important arena for the development of trade unions. Trade unions as such were endorsed by the Catholic Church towards the end of the 19th Century. Pope Leo XIII in his "Magna Carta"—Rerum Novarum—spoke against the atrocities workers faced and demanded that workers should be granted certain rights and safety regulations.[2] Industries like textile mills and railways companies had started in India in the latter half of the 19th Century.

Origins and early history

Trade unions have sometimes been seen as successors to the guilds of medieval Europe, though the relationship between the two is disputed.[3] Medieval guilds existed to protect and enhance their members' livelihoods through controlling the instructional capital of artisanship and the progression of members from apprentice to craftsman, journeyman, and eventually to master and grandmaster of their craft. A trade union might include workers from only one trade or craft, or might combine several or all the workers in one company or industry. These things varied from region to region, based on the specific industrialisation path taken in the place in question. [4]

Trade unions and/or collective bargaining were outlawed from no later than the middle of the 14th century when the Ordinance of Labourers was enacted in the Kingdom of England. Union organizing would eventually be outlawed everywhere and remain so until the middle of the 19th century.
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 of wage earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment."[1] 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."[5]]

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. Even after the legitimization of trade unions there was opposition, as the case of the Tolpuddle Martyrs shows.

The right to join a trade union is mentioned in article 23, subsection 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which also states in article 20, subsection 2 that "No one may be compelled to belong to an association". Prohibiting a person from joining or forming a union, as well as forcing a person to do the same (e.g. "closed shops" or "union shops", see below), whether by a government or by a business, is generally considered a human rights abuse. Similar allegations can be levelled if an employer discriminates based on trade union membership. Attempts by an employer, often with the help of outside agencies, to prevent union membership amongst their staff is known as union busting.

[edit] The International Prevalence of Trade Unions

The prevalence of unions in various countries can be assessed using the measure “union density”. The definition of union density is “the proportion of paid workers who are union members”.[6] Thus, union density provides a rough picture of union membership only; it does not account for the circumstance that in some countries, also many persons under education, many unemployed persons, many retired persons and/or many persons who had to leave work due to occupational injuries may also be union members. (In some countries, such groups of persons may be strongly motivated to maintain union members if, e.g., educational, unemployment, retirement and/or even disability benefits are in part or totally union-administered.)

Trade union density figures are provided below for countries in every continent on the globe:[7] [8] [9]

To continue, click on "read more" below or click here for Wikipedia. 

"Let us not look back in anger, 
nor forward in fear, 
but around us in awareness." 

(James Thurber, 1894 – 1961) 

Boulder City Shake Up

Note: I live in Boulder City, volunteer and know many of the players..presented as an example of media coverage through columnist and bloggers. -Art Lynch

Columnist George Knapp: complaints by Boulder City police chief shake up sleepy town’s power elite

<p>George Knapp</p>
George Knapp
For seven years, Boulder City police chief Thomas Finn has done a pretty good job of maintaining the peace in his green, clean, and mostly quiet community. But kiss the peace goodbye. Finn has just uncorked a huge vat of worms and has essentially called out the city’s power structure.
It’s tough for those of us who don’t live in Boulder City to follow the intricacies of its incestuous political structure because it gets so little coverage here. But Las Vegas media might want to set up B.C. bureaus because, according to Finn’s allegations, that bedroom burg is a seething cauldron of intrigue, revenge and discrimination, ruled by a small, closely knit cabal of power players, a group of folks who, you might say, are all cut from the same cloth.
Finn unleashed a torrent of hard-hitting paperwork this week and gave me first peek at the specifics. He filed four ethics complaints with the attorney general’s Pubic Integrity Unit, as well as allegations with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that he is a victim of religious discrimination.
Adding to this inferno is a detailed history of Finn’s ongoing beef with B.C. honchos, as described in a court document filed by his attorney, Sean Flanagan, in connection with a lawsuit in district court. Flanagan alleges that Finn’s troubles began when he started investigating what he saw as a pathetic lack of enforcement of DUI offenses and domestic-violence cases by the city attorney’s office. After he started making waves, he says, The Cabal decided he had to go.
One of the ethics complaints he filed accuses City Councilman Cam Walker and Mayor Roger Tobler of violating the city charter by pressuring the city manager to discipline and/or fire Finn. Walker was supposedly enraged because Finn wasn’t deferential enough to Walker last year, when the Mongols motorcycle gang was in town for an event. Walker wanted Finn to get on the phone with Walker’s pal and fellow church member, attorney Steve Stubbs (a Mongols lawyer), and Finn refused. City laws are pretty clear that council members are not supposed to issue orders to city officials or try to influence disciplinary actions. That’s reserved for the city manager.
A second complaint focuses on Walker, for allegedly voting on a city construction contract that the company he works for was trying to land. That’s against the charter.
Another complaint takes City Manager David Fraser to task for rushing the appointment of an interim police chief. Last week, Fraser made the decision to hire retired Metro veteran Bill Conger to fill in while Finn is on medical leave. But there’s a problem or two. For one, Conger — a respected lawman — has been out of law enforcement for several years and should have a background check before he is handed the job, Finn says. For another, he’s related to one of the council members. Councilwoman Peggy Leavitt admitted that Conger is her nephew-in-law, even though the charter says no one who is related to a member of the council, by blood or marriage, can be appointed as a city officer. They did it anyway.
Finn thinks it is an embarrassment that city officials bent over backwards to welcome the Mongols to town last year, Cam Walker walking with the leather-clad gang members down a main street, and going after their police chief for keeping close tabs on the bikers. Finn told me he and Metro had been given intelligence that the Mongols had issued a shoot-to-kill order if the Hells Angels showed up, even if they were just passing through. The Angels were meeting in Vegas that weekend, and there is no question of bad blood between the clubs. That’s why there was a strong law-enforcement presence during the Mongols event. (Finn got in hot water for asking city workers to delete Mongols-related e-mails, a violation of the law; he wanted it for security reasons.)
Finn and his attorney don’t exactly spell it out, but it seems they think too much of the B.C. power structure is controlled by members of a single faith. Four of the five council members are Mormons. So is the city manager. And the city attorney. And the municipal judge. Imagine if any other group or religion had that much sway in one government, anywhere. The church encourages public service, which is a good thing, but I don’t think it would support exclusion or discrimination based on religious differences. And someone who looks at this from the outside might assume that you need to attend the LDS church if you want a position of authority in Boulder City. (In his complaint to the EEOC, Finn notes that he is a Catholic.)
Finn’s critics will have chances to respond. In fact, they were first to file their own hard-hitting complaint with the attorney general. I’d be willing to bet the allegations against Finn will be rejected. Call it a hunch.
And those Boulder City officials who have made Finn’s life so miserable will soon be busy explaining their own behavior and why the city charter doesn’t really mean what it says.
GEORGE KNAPP is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS Channel 8. Reach him at


The Iraq War is 
 "the smartest thing George Bush did."

Coverage of 10th Anniversary of Start of Iraq War

Fox News covered the Iraq war 10 year anniversary the least of the 3 major cable news networks, and MSNBC provided more coverage than CNN and Fox combined:

While MSNBC focused largely on the heavy toll of the war, Fox News figures asked questions like "how much more skeptical was the press supposed to be?" and declared the invasion "the smartest thing George Bush did."

Just a reminder: According to a recent Brown University study, the war in Iraq cost the lives of 4,488 U.S. service members, at least 3,400 U.S. contractors, and an estimated 134,000 Iraqi civilians. The US alone spent over 1.7 trillion dollars on the war, to date (there remain US Soldiers and contractors in Iraq despite the "end" of the war).