trade union

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trade union:

see union, laborunion, labor,
association of workers for the purpose of improving their economic status and working conditions through collective bargaining with employers. Historically there have been two chief types of unions: the horizontal, or craft, union, in which all the members are
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Trade union

A combination of trades organized for the purpose of promoting their common interests with regard to wages, hours of work safety measurements, unemployment compensation, and other benefits.

trade(s) union

an employee organization primarily concerned with improving the conditions and rewards of the working lives of its members. Sociological analysis of trade unions has involved:
  1. distinguishing them from other forms of employee organizations;
  2. explaining their emergence, the forms they have taken, the objectives they have pursued, and the strategies they have adopted;
  3. examining trade-union government, levels of member involvement, and trade-union democracy;
  4. consideration of the impact of trade unions on work and wider society.

Internationally, differences in overall patterns of trade-union organization (e.g. number of unions, degree of centralization and involvement in government and level of membership) are striking; sociologists have also been interested in the implications of these differences.

Trade unions can be distinguished from PROFESSIONS, which are fully in control of the content of specific areas of work and often also able to control recruitment, and also from staff associations, which, as largely management-sponsored organizations, are often limited to a consultative role (see also UNIONATENESS).

Explanations for the emergence of, and variations in types and objectives of, trade unions have occasioned considerable debate. Fundamentally, however, trade unions can be regarded as attempts to offset the unequal relationship between employees and employers under capitalism (see also CAPITALIST LABOUR CONTRACT). Differences in the manner and degree to which different categories of workers were able to enhance their bargaining capacity accounted for historical differences between different kinds of trade-union organization, e.g. distinctions between ‘craft’, ‘general’ and ‘industrial’ unions. More recently, distinctions between different types of trade union have tended to break down, with the proliferation of new ‘market-based unions’ (i.e. accepting single union, single status, flexible working, no-strike agreements), and a debate within the trade union movement between ‘traditionalists’ and ‘new realists’. The problems currently facing unions in Britain are those arising from the restructuring of the national and international economy, decline in membership (particularly in manufacturing), anti-trade- union legislation and reduced union political influence (see also CORPORATISM) Analysis of the internal dynamics of trade unions has been largely concerned with testing MICHELS’ thesis that as political organizations grow larger they become less democratic and more conservative (see also IRON LAW OF OLIGARCHY). Conclusive statements on this issue are difficult given the various measures of democracy that exist (e.g. responsive leadership, institutionalized opposition, active participation, effective representation of members’ interests). It is clear, however, that variations in levels of ‘democracy’ are related to the characteristics of the membership of a union (e.g. social status) and the context in which the union operates (see also LIPSET).

A main strand of sociological debate about the social impact and effectiveness of trade unions has concerned their implications for CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS and whether they constitute any kind of threat to capitalism. Explanations for what are in fact usually seen as relatively limited trade-union objectives -at least in Britain – have focused on:

  1. the way in which they have segmented the labour movement by organizing around the stratification of occupations;
  2. the emergence of institutions through which conflict has become institutionalized and regulated; and
  3. union bureaucracy and member apathy. See also INDUSTRIAL CONFLICT, INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, STRIKES, INFLATION, TRADE-UNION CONSCIOUSNESS.
References in periodicals archive ?
Three organizations track data on the number of trade unionists murdered each year: the Colombian government; the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), successor to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU); and the Escuela Nacional Sindical (ENS) or National Labor School, a nongovernmental organization founded in 1982 in Colombia to provide "non-partisan and independent" information on human rights, labor, and the dynamics of association and collective bargaining.
Trade unionists representing dozens of unions throughout the country have joined together to oppose the war on Iraq and the war on workers.
Trade unionists believed that their right and responsibility to support their families justified striking for higher wages; they demanded that the government remove unions' legal disabilities, but they also wished the state to insure them against circumstances which would prevent them from living up to this responsibility.
General Secretary Bill Spiers said: "Section 28 will be fully debated at our congress in April by delegates elected by rank-and-file trade unionists.
Trade unionists and the Confederation of British Industry met Mr Brown and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Mr Alistair Darling to discuss the Government's public spending plans after the Chancellor used a London speech to spell out his uncompromising mes sage.
The USW filed the case against Drummond, seeking damages for the survivors of the three trade unionists killed in 2001.
His call for trade unionists to help shape the final form on the government's plans or face something worse is another surrender or else ultimatum.
The response among trade unionists and activists to the group has been very positive.
Huw Lewis He will say that for each party member with a vote, over 100 trade unionists across Wales has a vote to cast in the contest.
AT LEAST 140 TRADE UNIONISTS around the world last year were assassinated, disappeared or committed suicide after they were threatened as a result of their labor advocacy.
She traces in great detail how trade unionists acted with male managers and government officials to define and redefine what constituted skilled labour to the detriment of women workers.
This year's ICFTU survey shows that 123 trade unionists were murdered in 1998, 1,650 individuals were attacked or injured, 3,660 were arrested, and a massive 21,427 were sacked for trade union activities.

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