Labor unions have sprung up in every sector and subsector of the U.S. economy to provide workers and professionals with a means of banding together for collective bargaining purposes. But some have had more success in accomplishing their objectives than others, both today and throughout history. Government intervention has squashed the efforts of some unions to strike, such as the Pullman car railroad workers' strike in the late 19th century. But some unions have been enormously successful at getting their members excellent wages, benefits and working conditions.
Unions of professional athletes, such as the in America. The union began its run during the Great Depression, when it won concessions for workers with sit-down strikes. By the forties, the UAW had completely unionized the big three automakers making it impossible for Ford, Chrysler or General Motors to hire employees in any way other than according to the terms specified by the unions. The UAW also employed a shrewd method of negotiation known as "pattern bargaining." The union would request a substantial increase in wages for workers from one of the three automakers most likely to concede. Once the target company agreed to terms, the UAW would then negotiate similar deals with the other two companies. This strategy worked well for decades and prior to 2008 the average UAW employee was earning approximately $70 an hour with a whopping seven weeks of paid vacation per year. The gravy train finally came to an end in 2008 when Chrysler and GM went bankrupt and the UAW was forced to accept much lower wages to allow both companies to remain in business.
The Bottom Line
Labor unions in America have operated with varying degrees of effectiveness over the decades. Some unions have secured vital increases in pay and benefits for their workers while others have been less successful. For more information about labor unions, visit www.aflcio.com.
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