(Sources: Boone, Louis E. and Kurtz, David L Contemporary Business, 1997 and

Academic American Encyclopedia.  Deluxe Library edition.  Grolier Incorporated. 12th volume (K-L).  Danbury, Connecticut)




            A labor union is a group of workers who get together to discuss wages, hours, and working conditions.  In the United States there are two types of labor unions:


·        ·        A craft union organizes workers in a specific craft or trade, such as carpentry, painting, printing, and heavy-equipment operating.

·        ·        An industrial union organizes all workers in an industry, regardless of their craft, trade, or skill levels.  Industrial unions include the United Steelworkers and the United Auto Workers.



A1. What is a labor union?

A2. How many types of labor unions are there in the United States?

A3. What type of union do carpenters and painters belong to?

A4. What type of union is the United Auto Workers?



The first union was the Knights of Labor, founded shortly after the Civil War ended, by Uriah Stephens.  Eventually, it split into factions.  One of the factions merged with a group of unaffiliated craft unions; to form the American Federation of Labor (AFL), which became a national union of affiliated, individual craft unions.  The AFL’s first president was Samuel Gompers.



B1. What was the first union?

B2. Who was the Knights organizer?

B3. What does AFL stand for?

B4. Who was the first president of the AFL?












            The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) joined the workers who were excluded from the elitist AFL.  After the Great Depression, the IWW almost went out of existence.  During this time, automobile manufacture had emerged as the economy’s largest mass-production industry.  Yet, these workers were largely excluded from the AFL.  The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) was reconstituted as an industrial union to provide a suitable vehicle for representing semi- and unskilled workers in a particular workplace, industry, or group of industries.  One year after the Civil Rights Movement began, George Meany, president of the AFL, and Walter Reuther, president of the CIO, joined hands victoriously.  Before they united, the AFL and the CIO supported Franklin D. Roosevelt's political campaign.



C1. What does IWW stand for?

C2. What does CIO stand for?

C3. After what event did the AFL and CIO unite?

C4. Who was the president of the AFL during this time? And from the CIO?

C5. What two parties supported Franklin D. Roosevelt's political campaign?



A national union is made up of many local unions.  So, a local union is the part of a national union that represents members in a specific area.  An international union is a union with members outside the United States.  A federation is an association of numerous national and international unions to serve mediation and political functions.



D1. What is a national union?

D2. What is a local union?

D3. What is an international union?

D4. What is a federation?



A wave of strikes over wage demands led Congress to pass the Labor-Management Relations Act, or Taft-Hartley Act, over President Truman’s veto.  This Act outlaws unfair practices of unions such as refusal to bargain with the employer, striking without 60 days’ notice, most secondary boycotts, and the closed shop, an illegal policy requiring a firm to hire only current union members.



E1. What’s another name for the Labor-Management Relations Act?

E2. What does this act outlaw?

E3. What is a closed shop?






A union shop requires nonunion workers to join a union that represents a firm’s workers within a specified period, normally 30 days.  An agency shop allows workers to reject union membership, but requires them to pay fees equal to union dues.  The open shop makes union membership voluntary for all employees.



F1. What is a union shop?

F2. What is an agency shop?

F3. What is an open shop?



The National Labor Relations Act, or Wagner Act, granted workers the right to organize and bargain collectively through representation of their own choosing, and the right to strike.  It also established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to conduct elections among employees wishing to organize a union.



G1. What’s another name for the National Labor Relations Act?

G2. What did it grant to workers?

G3. What does NLRB stand for?

G4. What’s the function of the NLRB?



Before workers can form a union, they must collect signatures of at least 30 percent of their fellow employees on special authorization cards.  Then, the union can petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for an election.  If more than 50 percent of the employees vote in favor, the union is certified.



H1. What percentage of employees’ signatures do you need to petition the              

       NLRB for an election?

H2. How many votes do you need to certify a union?



A collective bargaining is the negotiation between management and union representatives concerning wages and working conditions.  The resulting labor contracts are written documents that both parties agree to honor and enforce.  They usually cover two or three years. Agreements generally include wage provisions, job rights, union rights, and management rights.



J1. What is a collective bargaining?

J2. What is a labor contract?

J3. How many years does a labor contract cover?

J4. What sections does an agreement generally include?








The chief weapons of unions are strikes, picketing, and boycotts:


·        ·        A strike is the employees’ temporary work stoppage until a dispute is settled or a contract signed.  Since a company doesn’t pay striking workers, the union generally establishes a fund to provide workers’ wages, allowing them to continue striking without financial hardship.  Even though federal employees have been permitted to join and bargain collectively, they are not allowed to strike.  Example:  when the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization went on strike, President Ronald Reagan fired 11,500 controllers.

·        ·        Picketing is when workers march at a plant entrance to protest some management practice.

·        ·        A boycott is an attempt to keep people from purchasing goods and services from a company as part of a labor dispute.  In a primary boycott, union members urge people not to patronize a firm.  A secondary boycott is intended to force an employer to stop dealing with a firm involved in a labor dispute.


Management has its own weapons for dealing with organized labor: A lockout is a management shutdown of a firm to pressure union members.  A strikebreaker is a nonunion worker hired to replace a striking worker.


An injunction is a court order prohibiting some union or management practice. This is regulated by the Norris-LaGuardia Act.



K1. What are the chief weapons of unions against management?

K2. What is a strike?

K3. Does a company pay striking workers? If not, who pays them?

K4. Can federal employees go on strike?

K5. What is picketing?

K6. What is a boycott?

K7. What is a primary boycott?

K8. What is a secondary boycott?

K9. What is a lockout?

K10. What is a strikebreaker?

K11. What is an injunction?