What a Union is...
Why Unions Were Needed...
What Happened With the Unions...
Jon Cox, U.S. History, Communications Academy

What a Union is...

         A union is a group of workers together that protect each other for the benefit of them all. Without a union, the bosses of these employees in different companies can make any decision they want, without anyone telling them otherwise. Workers over time found that these bosses many times made unfair choices and controlled the lives of the employees, firing them because they didn't like the employee or paying them smaller amount of money than should be paid for a job, with them getting a larger paycheck than they deserve to receive. In a union you are lead by union leaders that take notice to things the group sees going on in their field of business and takes action against them. Usually unions are based off a particular company or field of business, like the U.A.W., or Union of Auto Workers, for people in the Auto industry. There are many other unions for many different kind of jobs, and some jobs even require you to join a union in order to get a job in that business. In order to keep these unions running you pay dues from your paycheck to keep them running, and help you when you need it. For example, if a union decided that their company was paying them too little, they could as a union go on strike, in which they would refuse to do work until their demands are met. In this way Unions provide a non-violent way for the voices of a company's employees to be heard. There are more than "20 million Americans in every industry and craft and in a growing number of professions are union members" 1. Roughly two-thirds of these make up the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations). The AFL-CIO overal speaks for labor at a national level. There are giant unions though, like the UAW, Teamsters and the Steelworkers, and there are those that are smaller like the "Watch Workers, the Window Cutters, and the Cigar Makers, which have only a few thousand members" 1.

Several labor unions that exist today:

  • UFW - United Farm Workers
  • UAW - United Auto Workers
  • IWW - Industrial Workers of the World
  • SAG - Screen Actors Guild
  • UFCW - United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
  • AFT - American Federation of Teachers

Why Unions Were Needed...

1. The Unions: What They Are, How They Came to Be, How They Affect Each of Us

Last Updated January 17, 2002