To intimidate striking workers or escort strike breakers, workers who would replace the individuals striking, across picket lines some employers contracted private companies like the Pinkerton Detective Agency.
The United States Department of Labor reports that the Coal Strike of 1902 proved to be a turning point in U.S. policy. On October 3, 1902, to address the strike in the Pennsylvania anthracite coal fields that he perceived to threaten a coal famine, President Theodore Roosevelt resolved to end the strike by setting a precedent for the Federal Government's interventions. After a bitter battle, with President Roosevelt's intervention, both sides of the coal labor dispute agreed to the findings of the Anthracite Coal Strike Commission. As a result, labor and industry accepted that the public possessed overriding rights as well as vital interests. President Roosevelt's voice and negotiation skills returned peace to the coalfields (the Coal Strike of 1902…, 2010).
James Sherk (2008), a policy analyst in the Center for Data Analysis, speaks out against unions in the article, "Do Americans today still need labor unions?." Sherk poses questions regarding whether a worker would want to work for a company that did not reward or promote an employee for extra effort. Sherk contends that unionized employers treat employees the same; that they only promote employees not on professional merit but on seniority. Sherk argues:
The average union member still earns more than the average non-union member, but not because unions are skilled negotiators. it's because unionized companies become very selective about whom they hire.
Since unions make it virtually impossible to lay off under-performing workers, unionized companies take pains to hire more productive workers in the first place. The typical union member naturally earns higher wages -- with or without general representation. New workers who vote to join a union, however, do not earn more than they would have if they had stayed non-union. (Sherk, 2008, Selective Hiring Section, paras. 1-2)
Contemporary realities regarding unions and, according to Sherk (2008), clash with a myriad of concerns that currently, as in the past, repulse some anit-union workers. These concerns reportedly include "corruption, unaccountable leadership, and members' dues funding union bosses' lavish salaries" (Sherk, 2008, Selective Hiring Section, para. 3). Another major complaint includes the union engaging in excessive political activism. In fact, unions reportedly spent $300 million to defeat John McCain when he ran for president. This proves to be a problem, Sherk stresses, to the everyday worker whose union dues foot such bills.
In January 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that for the first time in U.S. history more government workers belong to unions than private-sector employees. Steven Greenhouse (2010) reports in the article, "Most U.S. Union Members Are Working for the Government, New Data Shows, that the labor bureau, median reports weekly earnings in 2009 for full-time unionized workers totaled $908. Workers not members of the union earned approximately $710 per week. The bureau, however, attributes this difference in pay not only relates to home unionization but varies with company size, industry, and occupation.
Paula B. Voos, a labor relations professor at Rutgers, attributes the decrease in private-sector unionization to the private-sector workers' inability of to unionize. J. Justin Wilson, however, disagrees with Voos. Wilson heads the Center for Union Facts, a corporate-backed group which opposes the "Employee Free Choice Act," the current bill that aims to make unionizing easier. "Labor union membership is an outdated concept for most working Americans," Wilson states. "It is a relic of Depression-era labor-management relations" (Wilson, as cited in Greenhouse, 2010, para. 20).
Labor History (2010), a contemporary journal for historical scholarship on labor, considers issues regarding labor to be ongoing concerns as they currently encourage the study of labor and all its aspects, including the union. During 2010, this journal is sponsoring an annual Dissertation Prize for "broadly defined" labor studies. Regardless of the discipline, the researcher presenting the best Ph.D. dissertation written on a historical or contemporary labor topic, whether in the U.S. Or another global location will receive a monetary award and publication in the journal as well as the Labor History website.
Union Labor in the Hospitality Industry
Mike Mitchell (2007) depicts one of the loud voices proclaiming the evils of union labor. In the article "Organizing Trends in the Hospitality Industry," Mitchell argues that the union draws its income primarily from its members and that it has never served as a majority force to represent the workforce. In the private sector, the unionized percentage rate only totals approximately 8%, he states. "These trends in turn have lead to mergers as unions struggle to survive. One of the most important mergers to this particular audience is between the Needle Trades Union (UNITE) and the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE)" (Mitchell, Mergers Section, para. 1). According to Mitchell, unions such as this are currently targeting the hotel industry, a major entity in the hospitality industry. Reasons for the union's interest include the fact that this growth industry employs workers who work for relatively low paying wages. In addition, the services cannot be exported or completed offshore.
At times, employers in the hospitality industry may even seek union assistance due to the fact: 1) Based on the convention's labor policies, unions can often steer major conventions to or away from particular hotels. 2) Unions may sometimes help overcome resistance to businesses like a casino; opposition that certain localities may have against employers in the gaming industry. 3) Unions sometimes finance new constructions or offer direct financial assistance to particular properties. This reportedly contributes to the union's current ploy to secure union members from the top down strategy (Mitchell, 2007).
When ground up organizing no longer proves to be effective Mitchell (2007) reports, unions routinely use corporate campaigns, a prime example of top down organizing. Instead of convincing employees to sign authorization cards and join the union, unions win over Boards of Directors and shareholders of some major companies. They convince the industry leaders that adopting and promoting favorable policies towards unions will help them evade boycotts and negative exposure.
In response to the "Hotel Workers Rising" campaign UNITE HERE promoted; each of the targeted hotels in Chicago, New York and San Francisco signed collective bargaining agreements. Many of the agreements, Mitchell (2007) reports, included labor peace requirements. The Chicago campaign proved particularly victorious and as a result, included the following agreements:
1. Card check agreements at other locations;
2. advancing labor peace in other cities with colle and ctive bargaining agreements;
3. The Hilton receiving "preferred status" as a hotel management company of choice for the union and
4. A commitment to mutually explore enhancing Hilton hotels productivity and competitiveness, especially in food service and restaurant sectors (Mitchell, 2007, 2006 the "Summer of Discontent" Section, para 2).
Mitchell (2007) encourages those in the hospitality industry that to a degree they can "union proof" their property. Doing this requires employee implements pro-employee rules and meticulously monitors benefits and wages. The employer also needs to proactively address issues like discrimination, favoritism, common employee complaints and safety. In the article, "Hotel Workers Launch Nationwide 'Hope for Housekeepers' Tour," James Parks (2009) reports that in the hospitality, housekeeper who may clean up to 30 times a day with few benefits, need unions to help them retain their jobs. Despite the hard work housekeepers complete, some hotels such as Hyatt, fired 98 housekeepers who worked in its Boston location, some who earned $15 an hour and replaced them with "temporary: workers. The Hyatt reportedly paid the "temporary" employees, which an outsourcing company contracted to the hotel, $8-an-hour.
Whether the union, like the dinosaur, is "history" remains open to debate. Voices supporting union labor continue to assert that through union labor does in fact improve the lives of workers; even in issues other than wages and benefits. Those supporting unions continue to proclaim its virtues; that in contemporary times, as in the past, the union addresses numerous vital issues; including health and safety standards and minimum wage. The contemporary union movement in the U.S. that began in 1866 with the founding of the National Labor Union, according to the voice one tunes into, may or may not be good for democracy.
Mitchell (2007) loudly argues that it is better to keep the union for starting than it is to boot it out of an organization. As unions targeting hotels and other members of the hospitality industry, anti-union supporters warn that the union's power must be confronted and conquered. Tactics the union uses, like the strategies unions implement, the research reveals, may be positive or negative, depending on the voice one listens to and believes.
In contemporary times, as 129 years ago in New York City, workers continue to recognize the official U.S. holiday, Labor Day. Violent strikes, however, for a time, have appeared to have ceased. Instead, contemporary strikes have typically seemed peaceful events. In the past, official constraints to counter strikes that "got out of hand" often ended…