Friday, February 27, 2015



Some of the largest and oldest Industrial American Unions

*Special thanks to "Wikipedia", "Google Images", "The New York Times",
and ""

by Felicity Blaze Noodleman
Los Angeles, CA

Labor Unions have a history which dates back to the 1880’s in the United States and are somewhat similar to the trade Guilds of Europe which date back to the Middle Ages.   A guild is an association of artisans or merchants who control the practice of their craft in a particular town. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a professional associationtrade union, a cartel, and a secret society. They often depended on grants of letters patent by a monarch or other authority to enforce the flow of trade to their self-employed members, and to retain ownership of tools and the supply of materials.

Unions began forming in the mid-19th century in response to the social and economic impact of the industrial revolution. National labor unions began to form in the post-Civil War Era. The Knights of Labor emerged as a major force in the late 1880s, but it collapsed because of poor organization, lack of effective leadership, disagreement over goals, and strong opposition from employers and government forces.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL–CIO) is anational trade union center, the largest federation of unions in the United States, made up of fifty-seven national and international unions, together representing more than 11 million workers (as of June 2008, the most recent official statistic). It was formed in 1955 when the AFL and the CIO merged after a long estrangement. From 1955 until 2005, the AFL–CIO's member unions represented nearly all unionized workers in the United States. Several large unions split away from AFL–CIO and formed the rival Change to Win Federation in 2005 but several unions have since reaffiliated. The largest union currently in the AFL–CIO is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), with more than 1.6 million members.


The AFL–CIO is a federation of international labor unions. As a voluntary federation, the AFL–CIO has little authority over the affairs of its member unions except in extremely limited cases (such as the ability to expel a member union for corruption (Art. X, Sec. 17) and enforce resolution of disagreements over jurisdiction or organizing). As of October 2013, the AFL–CIO had 57 member unions.

Membership in the AFL–CIO is largely unrestricted. Since its inception as the American Federation of Labor, the AFL–CIO has supported an image of the federation as the "House of Labor"—an all-inclusive, national federation of "all" labor unions. Currently, the AFL–CIO's only explicit restriction on membership excludes those labor unions whose "policies and activities are consistently directed toward the achievement of the program or purposes of authoritarianism, totalitarianism, terrorism and other forces that suppress individual liberties and freedom of association..." (Art. II, Sec. 7). Under Art. II, Sec. 4 and Sec. 8, the AFL–CIO has the authority to place conditions on the issuance of charters, and formally has endorsed the policy of merging small unions into larger ones. In 2001, the AFL–CIO formally established rules regarding the size, financial stability, governance structure, jurisdiction, and leadership stability of unions seeking affiliation. And although the AFL–CIO constitution permits the federation to charter Directly Affiliated Local Unions, the AFL–CIO has largely refused to charter such unions since the 1970s.
A list of current member unions may be found at List of unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

In recent years the AFL–CIO has concentrated its political efforts on lobbying in Washington and the state capitals, and on "GOTV" (get-out-the-vote) campaigns and in major elections. For example, in the 2010 midterm elections, it sent 28.6 million pieces of mail. Members will receive a "slate card" with a list of union endorsements matched to the member's Congressional district, along with a "personalized" letter from President Trumka emphasizing the importance of voting. In addition, 100,000 volunteers will be going door to door to promote endorsed candidates to 13 million union voters in 32 states .

guild /ɡɪld/ is an association of artisans or merchants who control the practice of their craft in a particular town. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a professional associationtrade union, a cartel, and a secret society. They often depended on grants of letters patent by a monarch or other authority to enforce the flow of trade to their self-employed members, and to retain ownership of tools and the supply of materials. A lasting legacy of traditional guilds are the guildhalls constructed and used as meeting places.

One of the legacies of the guilds, the elevated Windsor Guildhall was originally a meeting place for guilds, as well as magistrates' seat andtown hall.
An important result of the guild framework was the emergence of universities at BolognaParis, and Oxford around the year 1200; they originated as guilds of students as at Bologna, or of masters as at Paris.

Early guildlike associations
In medieval cities, craftsmen tended to form associations based on their trades, confraternities of textile workers, masons, carpenters, carvers, glass workers, each of whom controlled secrets of traditionally imparted technology, the "arts" or "mysteries" of their crafts. Usually the founders were free independent master craftsmen who hired apprentices


The American Federation of Labor, founded in 1886 and led by Samuel Gompers until his death in 1924, proved much more durable. It arose as a loose coalition of various local unions. It helped coordinate and support strikes and eventually became a major player in national politics, usually on the side of the Democrats.  

In a world where the normal work day was 10 to 12 hours long and unsafe working conditions, laboring workers found themselves up against new demands in the mechanized workplaces and factories.  People were no match for the machines which could run endlessly. People now had to keep up and work at the pace dictated by the machine.  Working conditions had to change and employers needed to understand the problems their newly created factories were causing at the beginning of the industrial age.

A scene from the epic 1936 film “Modern Times” by Charlie Chaplin;  depicts the problems and challenges faced by people in the mechanized work place.

As the American Industrial Revolution continued to grow and dominate the US labor landscape the need for some kind of regulatory agency to guide the newly formed Industry’s and represent the working labors on many new issues from safety to labor guidelines of employment ages to eliminate child labor and fair wages only to name a few.  The early years of industrialization in the US saw a social upheaval in response to new problems not seen by society before.  Industrialization also spawned new opportunities for social advancement on a grand scale.  Since no such organization existed to meet the many and varied perplexities of Industrialization the Labor Union evolved in response to the needs of labor in the late nineteenth century.

American labor unions benefited greatly from the New Deal policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s. The Wagner Act, in particular, legally protected the right of unions to organize. Unions from this point developed increasingly closer ties to the Democratic Party, and are considered a backbone element of the New Deal Coalition.

Mid 1930’s strike against General Motors.

In many ways labor unions are somewhat similar to the scaffolding needed for a building under construction.  They exist to aid in the building in its completion and are eventually removed when the building is completed.  The problem with Labor Unions is they never seem to declare their work as finished and over stay their welcome.  In fact these Unions have eventually killed the rank and file they once represented because the Corporations the Union bargained with were forced into bankruptcy or to relocate outside of the United States where it was possible for them to continue doing business.  This scenario has played out time and time again over the last half century.

One of the most notable examples of a Labor Union “self distructing” occurred in 1981 with the “Air Traffic Controllors” Union as this article from the "New York Times" recalls.


The Strike That Busted Unions


Published: August 2, 2011

Ronald Reagan
Ron Edmonds, AP
THIRTY years ago today, when he threatened to fire nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers unless they called off an illegal strike, Ronald Reagan not only transformed his presidency, but also shaped the world of the modern workplace.
More than any other labor dispute of the past three decades, Reagan’s confrontation with the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, or Patco, undermined the bargaining power of American workers and their labor unions. It also polarized our politics in ways that prevent us from addressing the root of our economic troubles: the continuing stagnation of incomes despite rising corporate profits and worker productivity.
By firing those who refused to heed his warning, and breaking their union, Reagan took a considerable risk. Even his closest advisers worried that a major air disaster might result from the wholesale replacement of striking controllers. Air travel was significantly curtailed, and it took several years and billions of dollars (much more than Patco had demanded) to return the system to its pre-strike levels.
But the risk paid off for Reagan in the short run. He showed federal workers and Soviet leaders alike how tough he could be. Although there were 39 illegal work stoppages against the federal government between 1962 and 1981, no significant federal job actions followed Reagan’s firing of the Patco strikers. His forceful handling of the walkout, meanwhile, impressed the Soviets, strengthening his hand in the talks he later pursued with Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
Yet three decades later, with the economy shrinking or stagnant for nearly four years now and Reagan’s party moving even further to the right than where he stood, the long-term costs of his destruction of the union loom ever larger. It is clear now that the fallout from the strike has hurt workers and distorted our politics in ways Reagan himself did not advocate.
Although a conservative, Reagan often argued that private sector workers’ rights to organize were fundamental in a democracy. He not only made this point when supporting Lech Walesa’s anti-Communist Solidarity movement in Poland; he also boasted of being the first president of the Screen Actors Guild to lead that union in a strike. Over time, however, his crushing of the controllers’ walkout — which he believed was justified because federal workers were not allowed under the law to strike — has helped undermine the private-sector rights he once defended.
Workers in the private sector had used the strike as a tool of leverage in labor-management conflicts between World War II and 1981, repeatedly withholding their work to win fairer treatment from recalcitrant employers. But after Patco, that weapon was largely lost. Reagan’s unprecedented dismissal of skilled strikers encouraged private employers to do likewise. Phelps Dodge and International Paper were among the companies that imitated Reagan by replacing strikers rather than negotiating with them. Many other employers followed suit.
By 2010, the number of workers participating in walkouts was less than 2 percent of what it had been when Reagan led the actors’ strike in 1952. Lacking the leverage that strikes once provided, unions have been unable to pressure employers to increase wages as productivity rises. Inequality has ballooned to a level not seen since Reagan’s boyhood in the 1920s.
Although he opposed government strikes, Reagan supported government workers’ efforts to unionize and bargain collectively. As governor, he extended such rights in California. As president he was prepared to do the same. Not only did he court and win Patco’s endorsement during his 1980 campaign, he directed his negotiators to go beyond his legal authority to offer controllers a pay raise before their strike — the first time a president had ever offered so much to a federal employees’ union.
But the impact of the Patco strike on Reagan’s fellow Republicans has long since overshadowed his own professed beliefs regarding public sector unions. Over time the rightward-shifting Republican Party has come to view Reagan’s mass firings not as a focused effort to stop one union from breaking the law — as Reagan portrayed it — but rather as a blow against public sector unionism itself.
In the spring, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin invoked Reagan’s handling of Patco as he prepared to “change history” by stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights in a party-line vote. “I’m not negotiating,” Mr. Walker said. By then the world had seemingly forgotten that unlike Mr. Walker, Reagan had not challenged public employees’ right to bargain — only their right to strike.
With Mr. Walker’s militant anti-union views now ascendant within the party of a onetime union leader, with workers less able to defend their interests in the workplace than at any time since the Depression, the long-term consequences continue to unfold in ways Reagan himself could not have predicted — producing outcomes for which he never advocated.
Joseph A. McCartin, an associate professor of history at Georgetown University, is the author of the forthcoming “Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike That Changed America.”
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on August 3, 2011, on page A25 of the New York edition with the headline: The Strike That Busted Unions.

"The New York Times"

Today most Union Contracts specify how grievances are to be dealt with and call for a binding arbitrator when differences reach an impasse and are not able to be resolved.  Strikes are rarely called by unions these days and have proven to be a costly action for the rank and file of a Union. Union membership has declined from their hay day of the 1930's Thur the 1980's.  The charts from"" below illustrate the declining popularity of Unions.

File:Union membership in us 1930-2010.png

File:Union Membership and Support.svg
Charts obtained from "".

As the "Rust Belt" industries have closed or moved out of the country newer unions are now on the rise.  The problem with these unions is they do not have the economic infrastructure to support them which once existed.  Another weakness with these unions occurs because they are basically service oriented organizations which produce no product or income and are an expense to operate.  In short: they are now a huge burden to the economy.  AFSCME  is a Union who's membership is made up of Federal, State and Municipal Bureaucrats and is now ranked as the largest Union in the United States.  AFSCME seems to be a conflict of interests as they are a very large part of the organization which employs them.

As the following "wikipedia" details AFSCME as a Union is directly involved with political campaigns.  Labor Unions have always supported the Democratic Party.  With a Union now directly working for the Government at all levels there is now a cause for concern not only for the wage and benefits which they are practically giving to themselves with our tax dollars but also for the political influence they are forcing upon the country as a whole.  It should be noted that Bureaucrats are usually around longer than the legislatures who were elected into office and are supposed to be employing the AFSCME membership.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from AFSCME)

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is a major trade union in the United States. It represents approximately 1.5 million workers, most of whom work in the public sector. The union has become known in recent years for its involvement in political campaigns.
AFSCME is part of the AFL-CIO, one of the two main labor federations in the United States. Employees at the federal government level are primarily represented by other unions, such as the American Federation of Government Employees, with which AFSCME was once affiliated, and the National Treasury Employees Union; but AFSCME does represent some federal employees at the Federal Aviation Administration and the Library of Congress, among others.
According to their website, AFSCME organizes for social and economic rights of their protectorates in the workplace and through political action and legislative advocacy. It is divided into more than 3,500 local unions in 46 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbiaand Puerto Rico. Each local union writes its own constitution, holds membership meetings, and elects its own officers. Councils are also a part of AFSCME's administrative structure, usually grouping together various locals in a geographic area.

AFSCME members with then-Senator Barack Obama, 2008


With the recent Government shut down in Washington DC and Government deficits at every level of State and Municipal Governments one of the biggest expenditures for Government salaries is the benefits and pensions being given to AFSCME bureaucrats.  Their Union slogan, "We Make It Happen", is a little ironic when we think about Government deficit spending and shut downs!  Oh; and one other thing about this union - AFSCME has no redeeming social qualities such as safety or working conditions.  They are motivated by greed!

It’s certainly not unusual for conflicts between business and labor to be played out in the Capitol.
It is, however, very unusual for conflicts between two labor unions to reach the Capitol. And one such duel now presents Gov. Jerry Brown with a dilemma.

Read more here:


 3 SEP 2012


Just four years ago, 60% of the public approved of labor unions, while 31% disapproved. Today, 42% disapprove of unions, a move of 11 points in a very short period of time. In the 70+ years Gallup has been asking the question, approval has generally been in the 60s and disapproval in the 20s. Support for unions peaked in the 1950s, when 75% of the public approved of unions. 
And, this isn't some kind of skew from question wording. Here's the question Gallup asks:
Do you approve or disapprove of labor unions?
Now, I do have certain existential problems with unions, but I'm not certain I would disapprove of them 100% of the time in all situations. I mean, that question is a pretty clear up-or-down choice. That only around half of adults approve of unions today is a stark reminder of how far labor unions have fallen. 
Worse for unions, however, is that a plurality of Americans, 41%, think unions should have less influence. 25% think they should have about the same amount of influence and 29% think unions should have more influence. Four years ago, these numbers were basically reversed, with 35% wanting unions to have more influence and 32% less influence. 
I think two things account for labor's approval drop; the recession and the growing fight over public sector wages and benefits. At their most basic level, unions are a job cartel making union membership a requirement for many jobs in large parts of the country. With so many Americans unable to find work for the past four years, there is bound to be growing resentment towards unions. 
But, the second reason should worry union bosses. A majority of union members now are public sector employees. As state and local governments struggle with very tight budgets, the wages and benefits of public sector employees are becoming enormous issues in the debate over government spending. It will be next to impossible to get spending under control unless the expensive benefit packages are curtailed.
To many Americans, though, it isn't so much a math problem as a question of fairness. In most cases, public sector union members pay very little for health and pension benefits that a private sector worker could only dream about. These benefits are paid for with taxes from the private sector worker, who herself often has to struggle to afford health insurance and save for retirement. 
The whole situation is unsustainable and, until it is addressed, expect public support for labor unions continue to decline.

In private sector labor disputes, unions and management both have ample incentives to protect their respective interests.
With government labor negotiations, by contrast, that natural system of checks and balances doesn’t exist. There’s no strong incentive for politicians to be frugal stewards of taxpayer money – particularly when they negotiate very expensive fringe benefits that defer costs to future years.
Indeed, because government employee unions tend to be very politically active, often being huge contributors to political campaigns, politicians often have a strong incentive to be profligate with taxpayer money.

This has been Felicity looking at some of the not so well known facts about some Labor Unions for the "Noodleman Group".  See you next week!

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