What happens when you deserve a raise — or need a day off to take care of an unexpected emergency — or your employer has sold the company… or new equipment takes over your job … or working conditions on the job endanger your health?
It’s usually impossible, and always difficult, for an individual worker to go one-on-one with an employer when it’s necessary to protect your livelihood. The president of the company may not even be located in your community. Your supervisor knows you need to work — and the supervisor has the final word. One person’s voice just isn’t strong or loud enough to influence a large, impersonal organization.
Unions provide the responsible, united voice, which gives millions of wage and salary earners their proper share of participation in American industrial democracy.
Since the end of the 18th Century, American working people have joined together in democratic unions to exercise a voice in their own lives and futures, in a way that individual wage earners cannot. Union members elect their own officers, determine their own goals, set their own dues, and choose the rules by which their unions operate for the common good.
MODERN TIMES, MODERN UNIONS
Unions are an established part of American society because they have grown up with America. As business and industry expanded from local to national and multinational conglomerate enterprises, local union joined together to form national and (when they have members in Canada) international organizations.
Today, unions are more important to working people than ever. Large nationally and internationally minded business enterprises and complex governmental structures make decisions in a functional world far from that in which their employees live. Changing technologies are revolutionizing many types of work. Yet workers still require united strength to assure themselves of individual opportunity, dignity, and advancement.
Workers in union pool their strength and resources to gain the professional and technical skills they need for collective bargaining, the means and support to deal with nationwide and worldwide employers, and the ability to meet changing conditions with informed foresight.
Millions of Americans in public and private employment — in construction, transportation, finance, industry, agriculture, education, commerce, the professions and the services — testify tot the benefits of union membership. Today, some 13.1 million working people belong to 89 national and international unions in the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
WHAT UNION MEMBERS WANT AND HOW THEY GET IT
America’s union members want the things all Americans have always wanted. They want peaceful, dignified, productive lives. They want the opportunity to improve themselves and their families. And they want these things for all Americans.
Unions foster their members’ interests on the job through collective bargaining with management, in the exercise of industrial democracy. Today, there are about 150,000 collective bargaining agreements across the United States. Ninety-eight percent were arrived at through mutual agreement of workers and employers. Strikes get a lot of public attention, but fair contracts — not strikes — are what workers want. They reluctantly exercise their democratic right to withhold their labor only when there is no other way to reach an agreement.
UNIONS AND THE FUTURE
Union members are concerned about the future. They want to live in healthy, pleasant communities. They want to pass on a strong, prosperous nation to their children. Their unions foster these interests also. Unions are leading champions of good government, good schools, the protection of individual rights and the expansion of individual opportunities for all Americans.
If you hold a job, or are about to leave school for work, these are all things for you to think about, too. Think about your opportunity to join a union. For your own sake.
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Publication No. 164