15 Things You Didn’t Know about Labor Unions

12 July 2021

Labor Unions Work to Protect the Rights of Workers. Find Out Why There Is So Much Controversy around Them.

Hello Aluxers! As you know if you’ve been with us for some time, we like to look at things from many different perspectives. This is true also for the world of work. As much as we encourage you to follow your dreams and create your empire, we cannot forget those who work within an association to keep the gears oiled every day. Workers are entitled to inalienable rights which are defended and protected in the first place by labor unions.

Let’s find out more about these often controversial associations.

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Unions and Unionists Were Outlaw Until the Late 19th Century

Labor unions have existed for centuries, but only became legally accepted in the 1800s. Before then, anyone trying to unionize to get better working conditions could easily be sent to jail. As the saying goes, there is strength in numbers and employers were terrified by that. It took almost 150 for the unions to become legal. Nowadays, some would rather still have them banned.


Amazon Would Prefer Unions to Still Be Outlaw

Amazon is doing its best to give their workers who want to join a union a hard time. In Alabama, employees are trying to create what would be the first Amazon labor union in the U.S. The firm has responded with a strong anti-union propaganda. Jeff Besos apparently scolded his executives in his farewell letter, reminding them that a company is nothing without its workers. Given that Besos is leaving the company, though, this kind of feels a bit like passing the buck.


Anna Wintour’s House Was Picketed

About 100 people from Condé Nast publications protested in front of Anna Wintour’s house in New York. At the cry of “Bosses wear Prada, workers get nada”, protesters chose Anne Wintour as symbol of their 2-year long contract negotiations with Condé Naste. They demand fair pay, more job security, and better work-life balance. Wintour herself wasn’t spotted but her neighbors were seen handing out drinks to picketers.


Novak Djokovic Tried to Start His Own Union

Even high-paid athletes seem to have some complaints. In the summer of 2020, Novak Djokovic and a group of tennis players started the Professional Tennis Players Association. Taking the NBA’s association as reference, the new group wants to make sure the top players can make a viable living.

No, Aluxers: you’re not the only ones to think this is a bit of a tantrum. High-profile figures like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal chose to not support the PTPA. Also, women are little represented.


Right to Unionize vs Right to Private Property

The U.S. Supreme court ruled in favor of a Californian packing company, reversing a decades-old state regulation that allowed unions to access farm property in order to organize workers as long as they gave the company a heads up and visited during non-working hours.

The U.S. Supreme court ruled in favor of farmers, saying it was a violation of their constitutional rights: “Private property is private property.” Growers argue that, with today’s technology, farmworkers can be reached by digital means. The workers’ union disagrees, saying that these people are far less likely to have access to the internet and to have a smartphone, let alone using it.


Facebook, From Best Place to Nightmare

Even the most innovative companies are seeing a rise in unions activities. Facebook went from being one of the best places to work at to a downright nightmare for anyone trying to improve the workers’ conditions. Subcontracted cafeteria workers have voted to unionize at Facebook, where they were punished by their direct employer for the decision. And this is not the only high-tech company not really liking having to deal with unions.

If you want to know more secret stuff about these tech companies, check out How Tech Companies Made Billions and Payed 0 Taxes.


Challenging the Massive Power of Google

After the death of George Floyd, a Google engineer sent an email to colleagues to raise funds. Soon after, she was summoned into a meeting with Google’s human relations department. They were not happy with what she had done.

This engineer and a few colleagues felt this to be a limitation to their freedom of thought and decided to form a labor union. They called it the Alphabet Workers Union. In their mission statement, they declare to fight not only for workers’ rights, but also to ensure that their company acts ethically.


Managers Tend to Withhold Good News to Preserve Their Bargaining Power

Employers have learned to use subtle psychological techniques in order not to lose power over their employees. Apparently, workers are much more likely to leave the reins in the hands of their employers when things are going bad. They trust and rely on the entrepreneurial skills of those who hired them and are even willing to give up a part of their power to ensure that things get better.

Often, however, the employer reveals the real and much rosier situation immediately after closing the deal in his favor, leaving the unions with a handful of flies.


Non-union Workers Lost More Jobs Than Union Workers in 2020

As they say, unity is strength! And these months of pandemic have proved this right. Workers who were part of a trade union had less difficulty in keeping their jobs than non-registered colleagues. The bargaining strength of the group protected its members. What can be achieved together often remains a utopia for a single individual who moves independently.


Colombia Is the Most Dangerous Country in the World for Trade Unionists

A study by the United Nations Development Programme warned that Colombia is one of the world’s countries with the worst rates concerning freedom of association and labor rights. With a record of more than 2,800 killings of trade unionists and members between 1984 and 2011, it takes a lot of courage to fight for workers’ rights here. Even President Obama and the European Union tried to help improving the situation, reportedly with scarce results.


India’s SEWA

The Self-Employed Women’s Association counts an impressive 1.6 million participating women, making it the largest organization of informal workers in the world and largest non-profit in India. The Association promotes the rights of low-income, independently employed female workers. Since 1972, this union has supported independent Indian women entrepreneurs who take pride in being able to support their families with their own strength.


There’s a Labor Union Even in the Vatican

It’s the Association of Vatican Lay Workers and it’s the sole trade union in the Vatican City. One of their main battles concerned the right for pensions for Vatican workers, not contemplated until the 1990s. Well, apparently even saints need someone to defend their rights!


Most Americans Are Pro-unions but Do Not Belong to One

Over half of Americans say they would vote for a union at work, but only 11% of US employees currently belong to one. This is mostly due to the fact that labor laws often remain stacked in favor of big business, making unions’ battles often more like lost causes. Recently, things seem to have changed though, which brings us to the next point.


President Biden Supports Unions

President Biden twitted: “Every American deserves the dignity and respect that comes with the right to union organize and collectively bargain. The policy of our government is to encourage union organizing, and employers should ensure their workers have a free and fair choice to join a union.” This is the first time that an American president so clearly leans in favor of labor unions. The road to a more worker-friendly world seems a bit smoother now.


Nelson Mandela Largely Based His Politics on Trade Unions’ Principles

Nelson Mandela declared: “The kind of democracy that we all seek to build demands that we deepen and broaden the rights of all citizens. This includes a culture of workers’ rights.”

Unlike so many leaders who rise to power with the support of organized labor but then distance themselves from it, Mandela never broke the bond. He recognized the organization of workers as a part of the freedom struggle and of the formation of a just society.

Well Aluxers, here we are: 15 things you didn’t know about labor unions. We hope you enjoyed the article! Subscribe to our channel for learning something new every day!