The freedom to form unions is a basic human right. In 1935, the US Government enacted the National Labor Relations Act that said, “Employees shall have the right to form…labor organizations…to bargain collectively…(and employers may not) interfere with…the exercise of…this right.” In 1948, the US joined four-fifths of United Nations member states to ratify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which included the right of all people to come together in unions.
Workers form unions because there is power in numbers. Where unions are strong, employers must bargain collectively to set the terms and conditions of employment. The demand for profits must then be compromised with fairness toward workers.
How Employers Prevent Unions?
When American workers seek to exercise the right to form a union, they nearly always run into a buzz saw of employer threats, intimidation and coercion such as:
- Captive audience meetings
- One-on-one meetings with supervisors
- Threats to close or move the workplace if workers vote to unionize
- Hiring professional consultants (union-busters) to coordinate anti-worker campaigns
- Firing workers for union activity
According to Human Rights Watch, the treatment of workers by employers and the failure of the US government to prevent it constitute a serious violation of human rights. Their report says, “Many workers…are spied on, harassed, pressured, threatened, suspended, fired, deported or otherwise victimized in reprisal for their exercise of the right to choose a union.”
The consequences have been devastation for all of American society. When collective bargaining is suppressed, wages lag, inequality and poverty grow, race and gender pay gaps widen, society’s safety net is strained and civic and political participation are undermined.
What Have Unions Done for Us?
5-day work week
Family and medical leave
Fair treatment for women, people of all ethnic backgrounds, and those with disabilities
Union members earn 28 percent more than nonunion workers. But stronger unions raise living standards and improve the quality of life for everyone. In the 10 states in which unions are the strongest, there is less poverty, higher household income, more education spending, and better public policy than in the 10 states where unions are weakest.
Unions Encourage Democracy:
Unions encourage voting and other forms of political participation by members and other social groups with common interests. Political Scientist Benjamin Radcliff has estimated that for every 1 percent decline in union membership there is a 0.4 percent decline in voter participation.