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Running head: UNION MOVEMENT

A 18 pages term paper on Union Movement

            America's 16.3 million union members represent a cross section of people—women and men of all ages, races and ethnic groups. They work in hospitals and nursing homes, auto assembly plants and on construction sites, trains, buses and airplanes. They are security guards, musicians, electricians, postal workers, janitors and more.

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            Union membership is important to all of these people, helping them gain decent wages and working conditions and have a say in their jobs.  This collection of fast facts answers basic questions about unions—how many workers are members, what jobs they do and how much they are paid—and show some of the advantages of union membership.

            The union movement "should be about more than just salary and benefits," says Belinda Morieson.  She illustrates this principle by detailing how the nurses organization she heads went about winning the first legally mandated nurse-to-patient staffing ratio anywhere (Australian nurses).

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            That accomplishment, and its ramifications in improving the quality of patient care, has captured the imagination of nurses across her native Australia and around the world, fueling their determination to raise the issue of staffing ratios to a new level.

            It has also served to underscore that working conditions are the most common cause of the worldwide shortage of nurses working in hospitals and better staffing ratios the increasingly accepted formula for ending the crisis.

            Union membership helps raise workers' pay and narrow the income gap that disadvantages minorities and women. Union workers earn 28 percent more than nonunion workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their median weekly earnings for full-time wage and salary work were $696 in 2000, compared with $542 for their nonunion counterparts. The union wage benefit is even greater for minorities and women. Union women earn 31 percent more than nonunion women; African American union members earn 37 percent more than their nonunion counterparts and for Latino workers, the union advantage totals 55 percent.

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            It is hard to compare precisely the compensation of union and nonunion workers because individual workers differ by age, length of time on the job and other characteristics. By comparing the wages of workers within occupational categories, the union difference becomes clearer. Union membership brings one of the greatest pay differences in the protective services, where members earn $786 per week, compared with $502 for nonunion workers—a difference of 57 percent (Union pay).  The union difference means that union machine operators earn 41 percent more than nonunion workers, and union administrative and clerical workers earn 29 percent more than employees who don't belong to unions. In 2000, nonunion salespeople and executive, administrative and managerial workers were reported by the Department of Labor as earning slightly more than union workers (Incomes are).

            Union workers are more likely than their nonunion counterparts to receive health care and pension benefits, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1997, 86 percent of union workers in medium and large establishments had medical care benefits, compared with only 74 percent of nonunion workers. Union workers also are more likely to have retirement and short-term disability benefits.

            90 percent of union workers have pension plans versus 76 percent of nonunion workers. Seventy-nine percent of union workers have defined-benefit retirement coverage, compared with 42 percent of nonunion workers. (Defined-benefit plans are federally insured and provide a guaranteed monthly pension amount. They are better for workers than defined-contribution plans, in which the benefit amount depends on how well the underlying investments perform.)

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            Right-to-work laws are a bad deal for workers because they restrict workers' right to union representation and lower the average pay of all workers. In 1999, the annual average pay in free states was $33,104, compared with $28,035 in right-to-work states—an 18 percent difference. Right-to-work states have lower "union density" (the percentage of workers who belong to unions)—8.9 percent, compared with 15.6 percent in free states.

Unions increase productivity, according to most recent studies. The voice that union members have on the job—sharing in decision-making about promotions and work and production standards—increases productivity and improves management practices. Better training, lower turnover and longer tenure also make union workers more productive.

Unions and Productivity

Industry               Union Productivity Effect        Year of Study
Manufacturing Industry                  19-24%          1978
Construction Industry                   17-38%           1986
Cement Plants      6-12%              1980
Hospital Industry  0-16%             1984 & 1988
Banking Industry   0%                  1985
Furniture Industry 15%                 1976

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Although nearly 50 percent of union workers have been with their current employers for at least 10 years, only 22 percent of nonunion workers can make the same claim. Union workers have greater job stability, in part because they're more satisfied with their jobs, receive better pay, have better benefits and have access to fair grievance procedures. Even more important, most collective bargaining agreements protect union members from unjust discharge. Nonunion workers are "employees at will" who can be fired at any time for any reason—or for no reason.

            Union membership grew quickly in the 1930s, from 3.4 million members in 1930 (12 percent of non farm payrolls) to more than 10 million in 1941. "Union density" peaked in 1945-1946 and in 1954, when 35 percent of workers were union members. Although the percentages began to fall, the number of union members continued to grow, from 17 million in 1954 to 20.2 million in 1978. But by 1983, membership had dipped to 17.7 million (20.1 percent of workers).

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            Since 1983, the union share of wage and salary workers has declined in private nonagricultural industries from 17 percent to less than 10 percent, but the share has increased slightly in government, where it stands at 38 percent. The 16.3 million U.S. workers who belonged to unions in 2000 represented 13.5 percent of the total wage and salary workforce.

            African American men and women have among the highest unionization rates of U.S. workers (19 percent and 15 percent, respectively). In 2000, Latina women were almost as likely as white working women to belong to unions (10 percent and 11 percent, respectively), while Latino men were less likely to be unionized than their white male counterparts (12 percent and 15 percent, respectively). The unionization rate for both Asian American men and women was 12 percent. Union membership among white workers has declined since 1983 (the first year of data) and has decreased slightly among African American workers but has risen by 20 percent among Latinos.

            Union membership can be particularly important for African American, Asian American and Latino workers who are subjected to continuing discrimination because collective bargaining emphasizes equal pay and fair treatment in the workplace.

            Overall, 11.5 percent of working women are union members, compared with 15.2 percent of male workers. While the number of women union members has risen from 5.9 million in 1983 to 6.7 million in 2000 (a 14 percent increase), women still are under-represented in unions. Women make up 42 percent of union membership, but they account for 48 percent of the total workforce.

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            Women's under representation in unions is partly due to their over representation in part-time jobs and nonstandard work arrangements, such as contingent work, that are characterized by low union coverage.

            Like minorities, women have much to gain from union membership. Collective bargaining can win fair treatment on the job, and the union wage advantage narrows the historic pay gap between men and women.

            Unions represent workers of all ages—from young workers just entering the workforce to older workers near retirement. In 2000, 8.2 million union members were between 25 and 44 years old, and 7.1 million members were 45 to 64 years old.

            Workers ages 35-54 make up the largest portion of union members—60 percent. But more than 1 million union members are younger than 25, demonstrating firm support for union representation among young workers.

In 2000, 16.3 million U.S. wage and salary workers—13.5 percent—belonged to unions, including 9.1 million (56 percent) in private nonagricultural industries and 7.1 million (44 percent) in government at all levels. About one in four wage and salary workers in the transportation and the communication/public utilities industries were union members.

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            For many years the trade union movement has been monitoring the disastrous consequences for workers and the peoples of the Americas of a market-driven integration process. This process is causing the loss of jobs, reduction of wages and social services, and the erosion of fundamental principles of democracy.

In Denver they drew attention to the need for effective involvement of different social sectors in the negotiation of the FTAA. They deplore the anti-democratic attitude of governments, such as those of Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia and Peru that oppose the creation of a Labor Forum. This opposition ignores workers’ contributions to the creation of wealth. The exclusion of labor from this process is unacceptable, especially in light of the official recognition of the Business Forum.

            The FTAA, as currently implemented, is an unjust and anti-democratic process that they oppose. It will be the largest commercial agreement in the continent, involving countries of disparate size and of contrasting social and political conditions. It will not lead to broad-based social and economic development.

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            The integration of the Americas must take into account social imbalances between and within countries. They do not believe that free market forces will automatically generate long-term economic growth and employment. In Latin America, unemployment has increased along with the process of unilateral and accelerated trade liberalization. The number of excluded people and those who survive only by turning to the informal sector has increased while wealth has become concentrated. The ongoing liberalization process has contributed to the decline of the family farm and an increase in food dependence. The growth in rural migration has led to increased poverty, unemployment and violence in urban areas. United Nations data show that in 1960 the wealthiest 20% of countries owned the equivalent of 30 times what the poorest 20% of countries owned. The difference has doubled. Today it is 61 times. They live in a world in which 15% of the world’s population owns 80% of the world GDP.

            It is imperative that economic and social policies are coordinated at the international level to overcome inequalities, create jobs, and improve the quality of life and guarantee sustainable economic growth. We must counter the growing strength of international oligopolies, which act globally without any governmental control. In addition, the integration process should respect the right of each country to seek food self-sufficiency. Food is not just a commodity, but also a basic human right. Agrarian reform is an instrument of social justice, development and generation of employment that should be adopted in the majority of countries of the continent.

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            For workers, international trade is not an end in itself. It must benefit all peoples. They oppose free trade without social safeguards, without appropriate guarantees for conditions of labor and social rights and without protection of the environment. Comparative advantage must not be founded on the violation of basic human rights. Workers will not continue to pay for the consequences of intensified international competition resulting from free trade.

As workers they have accumulated experience on the effect of trade liberalization. They observe a generalized trend to attack their rights, and pressure for greater flexibility and growing precariousness of the labor market. The progress promised to us in the struggle against poverty and disease, and for education, nutrition and employment has not been achieved. Latin America faces a great social challenge, and they believe that FTAA does not recognize this.

During the last 12 years, the United States and Canada have also experienced significant trade liberalization. Meanwhile, real wages have decreased, job instability has increased, inequality and poverty have grown, and there has been an alarming reduction in employment in the manufacturing sector.

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Their hemisphere is characterized by enormous inequalities between and within countries. The United States has a GDP equal to 75% of the total goods and services produced in the hemisphere. Its capacity to mobilize technological and capital resources is far greater than that of countries in the southern part of the Americas. Therefore, trade agreements must include a balanced and sustainable strategy for social integration. The problem of foreign debt needs to be addressed as part of this strategy. The debt still has a harmful effect on the economies of most FTAA countries because it greatly reduces governments’ capacity to intervene in key areas of development such as housing, health, education and the environment.

The labor movements of the hemisphere are offering concrete proposals to confront the challenges of sub-regional agreements like NAFTA, MERCOSUR, CARICOM, the Andean Pact, and SICA. Their goal is integration that preserves the gains they have made, promotes social development, and strengthens workers’ rights as an integral part of these agreements.

For these reasons, they oppose the current commercial model of the FTAA. The process needs to be democratic, transparent, and open to much broader participation. It must recognize the immense economic and social disparities in the region.

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Once again, they demand the official recognition of the Labor Forum and the establishment a Working Group on Labor Rights. But this is not sufficient. New bi-lateral and multi-lateral trade agreements must incorporate a social dimension.

There must be recognition of core labor standards and the creation of mechanisms for effective compliance with these by the countries in the FTAA, including:

Freedom of association;

  1. Right to organize and bargain collectively;
  2. Restrictions on child labor and forced labor;
  3. Banning of employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race or religion.
  4. They demand the creation of environmental protection mechanisms to regulate the action of large corporations and conglomerates, which threaten the quality of life. In addition, social justice demands that agrarian reform be implemented in order to improve the quality of life of the rural population.
  5. They demand a gradual negotiation process, allowing each country to adopt appropriate transitional policies. Progressive negotiations will allow better identification of opportunities and threats faced by different economic sectors.
  6. They demand access to information, the establishment of mechanisms facilitating collective bargaining, and democratic control over the action of transnational corporations operating in the region, since these are the principal beneficiaries of economic integration.
  7. They demand the adoption of a Charter of Social and Labor Rights by the countries of the Americas.

            To conclude, the ORIT-ICFTU, the International Trade Secretariats, and fraternal organizations declare our firm determination to fight for democratization of the FTAA process.

These workers produce all goods and services. Without our participation, the negotiation and implementation of continental integration and of our countries’ involvement in international commerce are problematic.

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Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. (PotashCorp) announced it is locking out Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, Local 922 (the Union) employees at the Lanigan potash mine. The lockout became effective at 6:00 p.m. December 2, 2001.

The union served strike notice on September 21st, 2001 by initiating job action in the form of an overtime ban. Although in a legal position to lock out employees since September 28, 2001, the company chose not to, preferring to let negotiations continue.

Today's lockout notice follows a breakdown in negotiations and a failure to conclude a collective agreement. PotashCorp has been negotiating at Lanigan since February 2001 and remains hopeful that talks will resume and a new agreement will be finalized as quickly as possible.

``We regret having to take this action,'' said Lee Knafelc, Human Resources Superintendent at Lanigan. ``We want to return to the bargaining table and reach an acceptable agreement as quickly as possible for everyone's sake.''

Lanigan is currently in a planned shutdown to allow for potash inventories to be drawn down. During the lockout, Lanigan will be maintained and operated by salaried employees and management. PotashCorp's Cory and Patience Lake operations have successfully concluded new labor agreements in 2001, while negotiations are continuing at Rocanville and Allan.

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Despite these recent events at Lanigan, PotashCorp remains well positioned to meet both the current and ongoing needs of its customers. PotashCorp is the world's largest fertilizer enterprise producing the three primary nutrients and is a leading supplier to three distinct market categories: agriculture, as the world's largest fertilizer producer; animal nutrition, with the world's largest capacity in phosphate feed ingredients; and industrial chemicals, as the world's largest producer of industrial products and one of only three North American suppliers of industrial phosphates (Union Issues).


Australian Nurses' Message on Staffing Ratios Comes to CALIFORNIA.  Dec.3, 2001 from World Wide Web:

Incomes Are Lower in Right-to-Work States.  Retrieved Dec.3, 2001 from World Wide Web:

Union Issues Strike Notice: PCS Lockout Takes Effect Following Breakdown of Negotiations.  Retrieved Dec.3, 2001 from World Wide Web:

Union Pay Is Higher in Nearly All-Occupational Groups.  Retrieved Dec.3, 2001 from World Wide Web:


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