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 solidarity among 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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Massachusetts militiamen with fixed bayonets surround a group of peaceful strikers

The Lawrence Textile Strike, also known as the Bread and Roses Strike, was a strike of immigrant workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1912 led by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Prompted by a two-hour pay cut corresponding to a new law shortening the workweek for women, the strike spread rapidly through the town, growing to more than twenty thousand workers and involving nearly every mill in Lawrence. On January 1, 1912, the Massachusetts government enforced a law that cut mill workers' hours in a single work week from 56 hours, to 54 hours. Ten days later, they found out that pay had been reduced along with the cut in hours.

The strike united workers from more than 51 different nationalities many of whom knew little to no English. A large portion of the striking workers, including many of the leaders of the strike, were Italian immigrants. Carried on throughout a brutally cold winter, the strike lasted more than two months, from January to March, defying the assumptions of conservative trade unions within the American Federation of Labor (AFL) that immigrant, largely female and ethnically divided workers could not be organized. In late January, when a striker, Anna LoPizzo, was killed by police during a protest, IWW organizers Joseph Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti were framed and arrested on charges of being accessories to the murder.

IWW leaders Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn came to Lawrence to run the strike. Together they masterminded its signature move, sending hundreds of the strikers' hungry children to sympathetic families in New York, New Jersey, and Vermont. The move drew widespread sympathy, especially after police stopped a further exodus, leading to violence at the Lawrence train station. Congressional hearings followed, resulting in exposure of shocking conditions in the Lawrence mills and calls for investigation of the "wool trust." Mill owners soon decided to settle the strike, giving workers in Lawrence and throughout New England raises of up to 20 percent. Within a year, however, the IWW had largely collapsed in Lawrence. (Full article...)
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Left pointing double angle quotation mark sh3.svg One man quitting out of 50,000 is nothing or even ten men or one hundred men, but if they all quit, so they can do with the employer what the employer does with you, when he discharges you, then they can bargain and there is no other kind of bargaining but collective bargaining." Right pointing double angle quotation mark sh3.svg — Clarence Darrow.

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