Talk:Trade union

From Academic Kids

  • In the closed shop, a business may only hire workers who already belong to the union.
  • In the union shop, a business may hire anyone, but workers must join the union within a designated amount of time after they start work.
  • In the agency shop, workers may choose to not join the union, but must pay a fee to the union for its services in negotiating their contract.
  • In the open shop, a business may employ anyone it likes, regardless of their union status, and workers are not required to associate with a union at all.

I remember some other variants. There is one where workers are only allowed to join a specific union; i.e. they can be non-union or belong to the specified union but not to other unions. There is also places where the employee makes it part of the terms and conditions not to join a union, or may allow it but just not recognise or negotiate with the union. I can't remember the names of these, but I think they may be open agency shop and non-union shop respectively.

This article needs to branch off into separate articles on the history of the British and American trade union movements (and presumably Australian et al) and concentrate on the concept of unionism rather than trying to be the all-encompasing mish-mash it is at the moment.

Most British unions are members of the TUC, the Trades Union Congress, which is the country's sole national trade union center.

I could be wrong about this but I think in Scotland they have a Scotish Trades Union Congress (STUC) which is entirely seperate from the TUC which exists south of the border.SaulnTaylor

Correct. My union held its annual conference in Perth about 10 years ago, and we were addressed by the STUC General Secretary who made it clear that they were totally separate from the TUC (my union affiliates to both of them). -- Arwel 01:27, 9 Dec 2003 (UTC)

LO Landsorganisationen

Google ( suggests that LO isn't a single trades union in Sweden, but the confederation of Swedish unions. This could do with clarifying. Also, the link on the page (to LO) links to a disambiguation page that only lists the Norwegian union LO Landsorganisasjonen (which Google suggests is accurate). — OwenBlacker 15:38, Jun 11, 2004 (UTC)

Origins of Trade Unions

In regard to 'Unions not Guilds' I'd like to add to the Labor Union article the following comment, but due to it conflicting with the point of view in the existing article, I thought I should bring it up here first. According to the NPOV policy, I think this should be included as being part of a continuing debate about the origins of trade unions:

"Another recent historical view puts forward that the origins of Trade Unions is part of a broader movement of benefit societies, which includes Freemasons, Oddfellows, Friendly Societies and other Fraternal organizations."

The source material for this view comes from articles by Dr Bob James, an Australian historian who has been researching in the field for the last 20 years:

Particularly important are the articles on Secret Societies and the Labour Movement, The Knights of Labour and their context, and the book length treatise revised in May 2002 CRAFT, TRADE OR MYSTERY: Part One - Britain from Gothic Cathedrals to the Tolpuddle Conspirators. Tirin 08:01, 12 Aug 2004 (UTC)

As there have been no comments on this proposal, I have rewritten the section to take into account the above research and tried to put forward major points of view and some brief historical context, so that the article concords with the NPOV policy. --Takver 06:56, 18 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Industrial union, craft union

I was rather amazed to discover that we have no article on industrial union or craft union. For the moment, I've simply made them redirect to here, but the concepts each really deserves an article of their own. Is anyone interested in taking this on? I'm pretty swamped and even if I put it on my list, it would probably be months until I wrote more than a stub. -- Jmabel 05:43, Aug 15, 2004 (UTC)

Aha! we had industrial unionism (a stub, which I've added to a little) and craft unionism. I've added the appropriate redirects.

Recent addition, I'm not sure it's a plus

The following was recently added to the lead paragraph:

Unions also use their organizational strength to advocate for social policies and legislation favorable to workers. Unions are founded upon democratic principles and leaders are selected through an election process.

Ideally, of course, these things are true, but in practice they are often not. Consider, for a relatively extreme example to the contrary, government-sponsored unions in the People's Republic of China. These matters deserve discussion in the article, but does this idealistic statement really belong in the lead paragraph? -- Jmabel 16:32, Aug 24, 2004 (UTC)

Re: Recent addition, I'm not sure it's a plus

You are right. I will make some changes to incorporate your concerns.

I think it is very important to mention the larger role unions play in society. Unions are more than just employee representatives that negotiate contracts. They have been a serious force for social change through their political activities.

I just added a clarifying sentence about the structure of unions varying from country to country. It's a bit redundant since it is covered later in the article, but I think it is important to put at least a blurb in there about the political structure of unions.

Breaking labor unions out into subtopics by country

I recommend creating subtopic articles of the "labor unions" topic by country. I'd like to start an article devoted solely to labor unions in the United States. I'm a new contributor to wikipedia though. I'd like to know what the protocol is for doing this. I guess I can just go ahead and start it on my own but I would prefer to be more inclusive and work with those who already have an interest in maintaining pages about labor unions first.

Please advise.

--Nysus 18:16, 24 Aug 2004 (UTC)

You've just given appropriate notice. If no one objects in the next day or two, you can :

  1. Copy out what is here to a new article
  2. Edit down the content here to a paragraph or two
  3. At the heard of the new article, insert a line saying See main article [[the new article]].

Jmabel 01:51, Aug 25, 2004 (UTC)

OK, thanks. I'll do that. So is "appropriate notice" official wiki protocol before making a major change? And what constitutes a major change? Thanks.

The basis "be bold" policy means you can even do things without notice, but on an article where a lot of people have contributed, I tend to try to make sure there is something like consensus before doing anything drastic. I figure it's a lot more pleasant to elicit (generally polite) objections up front than to have them pour in after-the-fact and often less than happy. -- Jmabel 05:03, Aug 25, 2004 (UTC)

Negative Aspects

How come nobody addresses the negative aspects of unions, such as collectivism, and protectionism. How bout the antiquated "last hired-first fired" policies, and the forcing of companies to continue to produce products which the company cannot sell. or forcing the company to keep working when it needs to shut down to repair itself. For example, Ford's continued production of the full sized Crown Victoria and the death of Eastern Airlines. How about the near deaths of Catepillar and UPS? Unions are not the greatest. Why aren't we talking about why we aare losing so many members. We went non-union because we lost so many members that our dues became astronomical to the point we couldn't and wouldn't support it anymore. How bout their reputation for supporting people who truely should be fired for cause? Must I go on? Why does the puplic now view unions as basically self-serving entities? --Tomtom 17:12, 8 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Because the point of the article is to educate readers about what a labor union is, not to discuss their accomplishments or failings. Also, many of your points above are merely your opinion and have no place in an encyclopedia article. Nysus 21:02, 10 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Move of article

I suggest that the article ought to be moved (back?) to Trade union, since

1) It's linguistically not US-specific.

2) It better corresponds to the actual usage of the term internationally. In most English speaking countries (or rather said, countries in which English is used in political context, i.e. India, Nepal, Bangladesh, UK, many African countries, etc.) the word 'Trade Union' is more frequently used than 'Labour/Labor union'. Outside of the English-speaking world , though not being a language expert, the term used in Latin languages (i.e. all of Latin America, large parts of Africa and most of Southern Europe (syndicate, sindicato, etc.), the term used in Scandinavian languages and Dutch (fack, fag, vak), the term used in Russian (Profsojuz?), etc. Also its the term used in the English version of the names of the two major international trade union federations, ICFTU and WFTU. IMHO, this points to the fact that 'Trade Union' is a much more internationally recognized term, whereas 'Labor union' more specifically refers to a U.S. context. --Soman 19:27, 4 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I'm amenable to this, provided that:
1) a disambiguation notice be added clarifying possible confusion for U.S. readers with craft unionism.
2) the article continue to explain the differing international usages in the lead (including Canada's use of "labour union", which you ignore above)
3) in discussing the United States specifically, "labor union" be used exclusively (just as "trade union" would be for the UK), per the Wikipedia:Manual of style.
RadicalSubversiv E 19:50, 4 Jan 2005 (UTC)
I would completly agree to all those three points. --Soman 22:58, 4 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Just remember that there are still specific meanings to "Craft" "Trade" "General" "Industrial" and "Labo[u]r" union (and even "Professional Organisation") seperate to common usage. Many "Trade" unions in Australia are actually craft unions, or professional organisations. Some (very few) are industrial unions.Fifelfoo 23:02, 4 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Hmmm... Here in the states, we use "labor union" to refer generically to unions regardless of their sector or organizing method (industrial vs. craft/trade). I was under the impression that "trade union" was the analogous term for much of the rest of the world. If that's not correct, we need to come up with a better title for the generic union article. Perhaps Union (workers organization)? RadicalSubversiv E 00:44, 5 Jan 2005 (UTC)
I maintain that "Trade Union" would be the best title for the article, although it should carry clarifications on difference of usage of names in different countries. Naming it "Union (workers organization)" would not solve the issue, since the definition of "worker" is also ambigous and many trade unions organize non-blue collar sectors.
Any union that I'm familiar with considers its members to be workers. I suppose we could use "employees" if you prefer. But it's just an idea off the top of my head, not dedicated to it.
As per the distinction industrial union - sectoral/craft union, I find it to be of secondary importance. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the old AFL-CIO vs. IWW dispute? If so, it should be taken into account that the organizational position IWW and similar movements represent a miniscule fraction of the international labour movement. Also, here in Sweden (were the SAC, sister org of IWW, once was a serios contender to the LO) there has never been any linguistic distintion between "One Big Union"-unionism and the mainstream union movement, both tendencies have use the same term, Fackföreningsrörelse (Trade Union Movement). Likewise in Spanish, sindicalismo (trade unionism), is common to both tendencies. --Soman 02:15, 5 Jan 2005 (UTC)
The industrial union vs. craft union dispute is an important one, which both pre- and post-dates the heydays of the IWW. The CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) was made up almost exclusively of industrial unions and today the AFL-CIO includes unions organized along a variety of lines (industry, sector, craft, etc.), which is in fact currently a matter of much debate at the moment.
To return to the point, I think the key question is whether "trade union" can safely be assumed to refer to unions generically. In the United States, it doesn't. That's a big exception, but if it's the only one, we can deal with it. Fifelfoo's comments suggest that Australia is an exception as well, which makes me wonder about New Zealand, which suggests that we're now talking about much of the English-speaking world (and probably most of the English Wikipedia's readership). RadicalSubversiv E 02:33, 5 Jan 2005 (UTC)
I must regret, I may have misrepresented myself. In Australia most people refer to "Unions" pure and simple. The 1980s and 1990s shook up most of the traditional structures. Some are closer to industrial unions (NTEU). Some are simply conglomerates (AMWU). If people don't just say "Union" (as in "Did you join your union?") they say "Trade Union" which is somewhat anachronistic in Australian English. There are a couple of exceptions (Australian IWW which is unregistered and miniscule, "Professional Associations" like APESMA which is a bosses union). But even the old-fashioned single craft unions are usually referred to at "Unions" or "Trade unions". So that's kinda a vote for "Trade Union". Fifelfoo 03:20, 5 Jan 2005 (UTC)


No article on trade unionism can be complete without mentioning anarcho-syndicalism. Chamaeleon 12:21, 9 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Concur. Not an important strand today (except maybe in a few Spanish-speaking countries), but very important a century ago. -- Jmabel | Talk 22:22, Feb 9, 2005 (UTC)

Tolpuddle Martyrs

The origin of the Trades Union is usually attributed to the six Tolpuddle Martyrs (named after their village in Dorset, England) in about 1831-33. In 1834 they were transported to new South Wales for seven years as an example to others. (anon 31 March 2005)

The Tolpuddle martyrs were convicted for swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. The rules of the society show it was clearly structured as a Friendly Society. But clearly at the time, friendly societies had strong elements of what we now consider is the predominant role of trade unions. While the story of Tolpuddle has enriched the history of trade unionism, we should be careful not to subsume essential facts: that the organisation clearly labeled itself as a friendly society; and that friendly societies and unions share common attributes as benefit societies. Tolpuddle is discussed in some depth by historian, Dr Bob James, at --Takver 14:33, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

POV check?

This was tagged with {{POV check}}, but as far as I can see no remark was made here indicating what the POV issue is supposed to be that raises a dispute. If no one has specifically indicated what the issues are in the next 48 hours, the tag should presumably be removed. -- Jmabel | Talk 22:47, Apr 3, 2005 (UTC)

I agree, I can see no reason to tag for POV.


I, too, agree there is presently no issue requiring a POV check. I reckon remove the tag. --Takver 04:54, 10 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Removed as per discussion FrancisTyers

Recent insertion of POV material

Several recent edits seem to me to raise POV problems.

Recent additions:

The opposite human rights issue is that also the right to not to be a member of a union is a human right, and so is the right to work and the right to make decisions about oneself. The unions are often accused of terrorizing those workers who choose not to join the unions or to negotiate themselves on their salary and other terms of employment. Even in some democratic countries, the agreements made by the unions bind also those workers who are not members and want to choose their own terms.
The guilds have also been viewed as cartels, limiting the number of producers and thus stagnating the supply and development of products and production methods and hindering the rise of welfare and living standards.
  • Both of these are outside of the "Criticisms" section, but clearly they are criticisms.
  • "The unions are often accused of terrorizing…": Weasel words (No agency: who accuses? "Often"?) and an inflammatory word—"terrorizing"— combine to make a strong but baseless accusation.
  • (While I'm at it, weird grammar): "…negotiate themselves on their salary…"?
  • "The guilds have also been viewed as cartels…: again, no agency; also, there is an implicit, unattributed acceptance of a rather radical form of a standard critique of cartels: it is certainly a pretty extreme, minority view of guilds to say that they "…hinder[ed] the rise of welfare and living standards," but there it is in the narrative voice of the article.

As for the (also recently added) "Criticisms" section itself:

  • "Trade unions are often accused to benefit the insider workers…": again, besides bad grammar ("…accused to benefit…"?) "…often accused…" is not a citation.
  • The criticism of minimum wage is not particularly a criticism of trade unions, and probably does not belong here
  • "The economic analysis of a cartel applies completely to most unions…": I need hardly say that "applies completely" is POV.
  • "Often the union on a particular industry…" (again, bad grammar) "…puts pressure on politicians to subsidize the industry concerned…" Probably true, but deserves citation. Note also, the implicit assumption that subsidies are bad.

I think I've laid out the issues with this material pretty thoroughly, but I don't particularly wish to do take on the editing, and especially I'm not interested in doing the research to find citations. I would rather not simply revert, although I feel that this material as it stands does more harm than good to the article. Would someone commit to taking it on and fixing it? Otherwise, I guess I will just revert it, though I understand that is probably not as good a course of action as someone fixing it up. -- Jmabel | Talk 00:40, Apr 18, 2005 (UTC)

I agree, I had a quick go, but didn't want to go any further. I make take it up later... FrancisTyers 21:09, 18 Apr 2005 (UTC)
  • Good job on the "article 23, subsection 4 of the UDHR" thing, but I see you have again reproduced the claim that unions use "terror", which seems to me to be utterly out of line in the narrative voice of the article. -- Jmabel | Talk 05:52, Apr 19, 2005 (UTC)
Thanks, I moved the "terror" thing from the "History" section to the "Criticism" section and toned it down a bit. This is a work in progress I guess, I'm fairly sure there have been cases of union members "terrorising" (read pressurising?) non-union members. I am unhappy with the "Some unions", as it makes it sound like the "terrorism" is being directed from above and not just shop floor workers pissed off at a scab (to coin a phrase). That said, I'm going to leave it in for now, if you can think of a better way of wording it that would be cool :) FrancisTyers 06:23, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)
It's a long way from pressure—or even violence—to "terror". -- Jmabel | Talk 07:27, Apr 19, 2005 (UTC)
I agree, furthermore, I don't see anything in the Corporation article about corporations complicit in using forced labour. I guess I'll remove it, if the guy really wants it included, he can add it back and we can discuss it more. Also, I think some of the stuff in "Criticism" could be split out into "insider-outsider theory" and "minimum wage" articles. FrancisTyers 09:58, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Rather than "pressure" or "terrorizing", trade unionists have traditionally argued they have a right of "moral persuasion" of fellow workers.--Takver 23:23, 29 May 2005 (UTC)

Union shops?

Is it just me, or is all the references to different "shops" entirely US-specific? Perhaps its better to remove the Anglocentric focus to articles such as Labor unions in USA or Trade unions movement in Britain? This article ought to be globally relevant, providing info on TU systems in differnt regions. --Soman 10:37, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I agree this needs to be made less anglo-centric, however, yes we do have the different "shop" types in the UK iirc, although maybe not post-thatcher. I remember hearing the auto-industry was particularly fond of closed/union/agency shops. I would also like to see an article/section regarding the role of trade unions during wartime situations e.g spanish civil war, first world war etc. FrancisTyers 17:56, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I think we should keep the country specific information fairly general as a summary and pointer to regional/national trade union/labour movement articles. So, rather than specific detail on Trade Unionism in Australia, the Australian labour movement should provide the necessary detail and history. Similarly for Britain, USA, Europe, etc--Takver 23:31, 29 May 2005 (UTC)

Info to be added

Generally, this article needs section covering other regions than the English-speaking world:

  • Western Europe (including differences between Northern and South European TU movement)
  • Latin America (development of TU movement, reorientation to unity efforts in many countries, such as CUT-Brazil, CUT-Colombia, etc.)
  • South Asia (politically divided TU movement)
  • Africa
  • State-controlled TU system (Soviet type, currently existing in DPRK, Vietnam, Syria, etc.)

--Soman 10:42, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I agree, which is why i slapped the "needs to be improved" tag on it, I just don't have the time. :( IMHO state controlled trade unions should encompass their own heading, including the history of them etc. i'm still surprised there is no reference to solidarnosc or independant trade unions within communist countries, nor the labour disputes in the soviet union prior to its collapse. just because a union is state controlled doesn't mean its members can't strike... Maybe some kind of plan could be arranged whereby the article is rearranged according to common agreement? FrancisTyers 17:56, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)

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