A trade union (British English), labour union (Canadian English) or labor union (American English) is an organization of workers who have banded together to achieve common goals such as protecting the integrity of its trade, achieving higher pay, increasing the number of employees an employer hires, and 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 purpose of these associations or unions is "maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment".
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, trades 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 unions may be composed of individual workers, professionals, past workers, students, apprentices and/or the unemployed.
Over the last three hundred years, trades unions have developed into a number of forms. Aside from collective bargaining, activities vary, but may include:
- Provision of benefits to members: Early trades 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: Trades unions may enforce strikes or resistance to lockouts in furtherance of particular goals.
- Political activity: Trades 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), trades unions may be invited to participate in government hearings about educational or other labour market reforms.
Famous quotes containing the words trade and/or union:
“Conversation is a traffick; and if you enter into it, without some stock of knowledge, to ballance the account perpetually betwixt you,the trade drops at once: and this is the reason ... why travellers have so little [good] conversation with natives,owing to their [the natives] suspicion ... that there is nothing to be extracted from the conversation ... worth the trouble of their bad language.”
—Laurence Sterne (17131768)
“She had brought love to the union and he had brought a longing after the flesh.”
—Zora Neale Hurston (18911960)