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Posted on April 20th, 2012, by

Traditionally, labor unions perform the function of the protection of interests of workers and employees in relations with employers. In actuality, the role of labor unions is very important because, in the contemporary business environment, they can be very effective when interests of employees need to be protected. At the same time, labor unions perform important negotiation function because, normally, companies have to get the agreement of labor unions before introducing consistent changes which can affect employees. On the other hand, it should be said that, in spite of a considerable progress, labor unions are still not always able to influence decision taken by employers, who still remain the main decision makers and whose interests are always prior to interests of employees.

In order to understand the current status of labor unions in the USA, it is necessary to briefly dwell upon the history of their development in the country. The development of the US economy in the second half of the 20th century was characterized by a tremendous growth. In actuality, the economic progress of the US was accompanied by the growth and strengthening of the organized labor. In fact, American employees struggled for their rights and larger opportunities as well as they struggled against discrimination, which eventually contributed to the consistent change in the relationship between employers and employees. In this respect, the development of the Civil Rights movement produced a positive impact on the organized labor movement in the USA. As a result, American employees have managed to develop the organized labor movement that contributed to the improvement of the position of employees, namely they succeeded to get larger rights to strike and protect their social and economic interests, organize unions, which became a powerful institution negotiating better conditions of work  with employers, and workers have managed to force the authorities to implement legislative changes eliminating discrimination and inequality in employment.

On analyzing the development of the organized labor in the second half of the 20th century, especially after the 1945 strike against General motors and the passage two years after of the Taft Hartley Act, when the position of American employees had deteriorated consistently, while the further development of the organized labor movement was under a question, it should be pointed out that American employees had improved their position through the implementation of new acts and amendment of existing ones (Kelvin, 132).

Even though in the late 1949 the US Congress has not ratified the International Labor Organization Convention on the Freedom of Association and the Protection                                                                                                     of the Right to Оrganize Convention, 1948 and the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (Heintz and Folbre, 202). However, the opposition of employers to the development of the organized labor movement in the US could not overcome the growing pressure from the part of the strengthening Civil Rights movement. In the epoch of the progress of the Civil Rights movement, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with amendments was implemented. This act was a considerable advancement of American employees in the development of organized labor since the act guaranteed basic human and civil rights, equality of all people and their protection from discrimination or oppression from the part of employers. Later, in 1974 the amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act were implemented. In fact, this act is very important because it regulates minimum wages and overtime pay.

Furthermore, the Labor Code was created which also regulates the relationship between employees and employers.

In the 1990s employees got larger social protection due to the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 which protected rights of disabled American employees and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which opened larger access of American employees to healthcare services.

In such a way, today, labor unions have managed to achieve a considerable progress in insuring social security of employees. At the same time, the status of labor unions has changed consistently compared to the past epoch, when the labor movement had just started. In actuality, labor unions tend to occupy a relatively equal position in negations with employers, when issues affecting the position of employees are raised. In this respect, it should be said that it is very important for employees to be members of labor unions because the membership provides them with larger opportunities to protect their rights and they can count for better social security.

On the other hand, it is obvious that the power of labor unions is quite limited. Even though they have large opportunities to influence decisions taken by employers, including the right to strike, they still cannot guarantee the absolute social protection of employees. For instance, in the current economic situation, labor unions are unable to prevent job cuts, especially when leading companies are about to be ruined or have already fell to bankruptcy. In such a situation, it is practically impossible to avoid job cuts and other problems. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that it is employees who suffer the most from the current socioeconomic crisis.

Nevertheless, it does not decrease the current status of labor unions which actually plays the role of an equal party in negotiations with employers as well as the state. In other words, speaking about the labor market and relationships between employees and employers, it is now possible to speak about three major parties: employers, labor unions and the state.

Thus, the organized labor has made a considerable progress in the US during the second half of the 20th century. The legislative changes and numerous acts discussed above create the legal foundation for large socioeconomic and civil rights of employees and protection of their interests on the legislative level. Hence, today, the status of labor unions has increased consistently and they perform very important functions protecting rights and interests of employees.

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