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 (labor union in American English), often simply referred to as a union, is an organization of workers intent on "maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment", such as attaining better wages and benefits (such as holiday, health care, and retirement), improving working conditions, improving safety standards, establishing complaint procedures, developing rules governing status of employees (rules governing promotions, just-cause conditions for termination) and protecting the integrity of their trade through the increased bargaining power wielded by solidarity among workers.

Trade unions typically fund their head office and legal team functions through regularly imposed fees called union dues. The delegate staff of the trade union representation in the workforce are usually made up of workplace volunteers who are often appointed by members in democratic elections.

The trade union, through an elected leadership and bargaining committee, bargains with the employer on behalf of its members, known as the rank-and-file, and negotiates labour contracts (collective bargaining agreements) with employers.

Unions may organize a particular section of skilled or unskilled workers (craft unionism), a cross-section of workers from various trades (general unionism), or an 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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Labour economics, or labor economics, seeks to understand the functioning and dynamics of the markets for wage labour. Labour is a commodity that is supplied by labourers, usually in exchange for a wage paid by demanding firms. Because these labourers exist as parts of a social, institutional, or political system, labour economics must also account for social, cultural and political variables.

Labour markets or job markets function through the interaction of workers and employers. Labour economics looks at the suppliers of labour services (workers) and the demanders of labour services (employers), and attempts to understand the resulting pattern of wages, employment, and income. These patterns exist because each individual in the market is presumed to make rational choices based on the information that they know regarding wage, desire to provide labour, and desire for leisure. Labour markets are normally geographically bounded, but the rise of the internet has brought about a 'planetary labour market' in some sectors.

Labour is a measure of the work done by human beings. It is conventionally contrasted with other factors of production, such as land and capital. Some theories focus on human capital, or entrepreneurship, (which refers to the skills that workers possess and not necessarily the actual work that they produce). Labour is unique to study because it is a special type of good that cannot be separated from the owner (i.e. the work cannot be separated from the person who does it). A labour market is also different from other markets in that workers are the suppliers and firms are the demanders. (Full article...)
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October in Labor History

Significant dates in labour history.


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Left pointing double angle quotation mark sh3.svg "Size alone I don't think is the only measurement for a labor union. It's vitality. Your resources are more limited, but it's how you spend those resources. If you spend them on communications and organization and political activity, you can be a very viable force with a much smaller number than we had in the past." Right pointing double angle quotation mark sh3.svg — Douglas Fraser

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