Unionization has been decreasing in the United States over the last few decades. Unionization is generally the state where the workers are organized or come together to achieve specific goals that may vary depending on the category of workers.
The majority of the unions are formed with the sole aim of articulating the grievances of their workers. Their activities have led to the improvement of working conditions of the working population in industries and factories, particularly in the mid 20th century. Unionization mainly takes the form of a trade union where the members are represented in negotiation for better wages, terms governing promotion, firing, and hiring, and occupational health and safety. The term paper will critically analyze the literature on the unionization of professionals, particularly in North America.
Causes of unionization of professionals
Despite the recorded decrease in the level of unionization in the United States particularly in the period between 1950 and 1950, restructuring of the unions has occurred. The unions have made a paradigm shift from the reliance on mainstream workers from industries as their main source of membership. This has resulted in the encouragement of professionals to enlist in the unions in recent times. Although this is the main argument, actually economic-related factors have led to the shift in membership. According to Lane, the decline of the worker’s unions has been due to the increased competition witnessed in the labor market (1).
The influx of immigrants and the ever-increasing population without sustainable economic growth is mainly to blame for the misfortune. The pressure particularly for managers to deliver profits to commensurate the shareholder’s investments has led to streamlining of business operations thereby reducing the dependency on human labor. It is therefore worth noting that the decline in unionization has been driven largely by economic factors that support inequality at the workplace and the employment market. Studies carried out in the United States have indicated that unions particularly in Europe have achieved great strides in articulating their members’ views thereby resulting in the betterment of terms and reduced inequality.
This is contrary to the situation in the United States where inequality persists. The utilization of extension practices that are characterized by the binding agreements between workers and their employers has helped to achieve these positive impacts in France and other European countries. The extension applies to those members not in unions thereby leading to decreased inequality in the workforce (Lane 1).
The situation in the European countries led to the development of the employee free choice act (EFCA) that is bound to set a clear legal framework for workers to join the trade unions. Another cause of the declining enrolment into unions is partly due to the evolution of the service industry, rather than the manufacturing industry, as the major employment avenues in recent times. The reliance of some companies on part-timers has also diluted the need to join the unions.
Lane has critically analyzed and helped many people understand the underlying causes of the unemployment and decline in the level of unionization. From my point of view, the explanation is well thought and is critical of the American system that is lagging in unionization. This is justified by data that shows that all the other developed countries have far much better shares of employees who enjoy the positive benefits brought by collective bargaining.
Perspectives in the development
Increasing unionization of professionals has cast a general feeling that it challenges the professionalism required of the workers. The traditional view of unions as unprofessional has helped inform this argument. Many people are of the view that the two are overly antagonistic thus resulting in problems in the workplace (Leslie 243). Dramatic improvements in the numbers of professionals joining unions have elicited mixed feelings from both divides.
The protagonists argue that collective bargaining will be achieved while the antagonists feel that it will lead to decreased productivity. Leslie asserts that treating the two topics theoretically will help in the understanding of the compatibility of the association (243). The contradiction in membership has always rested in the specific roles played by the unions and the professional associations. While unions require short-term commitment, lifetime dedication is a prerequisite for members joining professional associations. The incompatible view of authorities has been overtaken by events since the professionals have been able to devise ways to coexist with the unions without impacting negatively on their profession. This has been through the development of a hybrid model that judges the unions on different terms.
Leslie asserts the interaction results in the establishment of new forms that are different from the traditional approach. However, the two borrow immensely from each other thereby influencing the entire establishment. Leslie concludes that the absolute rejection of unionization within professions lacks any support from the historical and theoretical perspectives (255). The acknowledgment of the pros and cons of the association makes Leslie’s work a better perspective in the understanding of the diffusion that resulted in the merger (Brown & Keeley 45).
Economic effects of the unions
The unionization of professionals is known to bring economic effects to the unions and the society at large. Clemens, Amela, and Veldhuis asserted that rigidity in the labor laws coupled with high rates of unionization is responsible for the underperformance in the labor market (34). In a review of major research works, they noted that there is an increased propensity for unionized firms to have poor returns in terms of productivity and creation of employment.
Documented evidence also denotes that the unions partly blame for the reduction in profitability combined with underinvestment in the physical infrastructure. Studies in North America indicated that increased levels of unemployment have been reported in administrative areas with high rates of unionization of professionals. A higher than 78.5 % of the unemployment rate was recorded in the administrative regions with high levels of unionizations when compared to the lowly unionized regions. The statistics serve to substantiate the views brought forward by the antagonists of the unionization of professionals (Clemens, Amela & Veldhuis 35).
Benefits of unionization
Professionals are better placed to enjoy more benefits when they enlist with unions. Mishel & Walters have asserted that there is a substantial impact with regards to compensations and lives of the workers whether unionized or non-unionized. In this regard, wages were found to rise by ranges of 20 and 30%. Inequality is overly reduced in the long term. The increase in wages in the low and middle-income categories is important in bridging the widening gap in equality. Incomes across the levels of education attained are also reduced dramatically thereby resulting in a fair society.
Professionals generally benefit from the pay standards put in place by the unions. Unions are known to set the amount of money paid to nonunionized members in similar job categories (Mishel & Walters 1). The professional would also reap from increased vacation and total paid leave that comes with unionized employees. There is an increasing propensity for the unions to complement the legislation governing labor protection and safety at work. The unions, therefore, serve as intermediaries that hasten the process of acquisition of basic rights such as social insurance and workmen compensation.
The authors critically elucidate the topic by the utilization of descriptive statistics. The comparative analysis between the two categories is imperative in bringing out the merits of joining the unions thereby justifying the great push by unions to enroll more members from the professionals. However, the generalizations based on the empirical research may not hold for all categories of professionals. Competition and diversification of professions fail might work against the evidence brought forward by these conclusions (Brown & Keeley 45).
Unionization of the professionals has elicited mixed feelings due to the traditional view of unionization as unprofessional. The assumption that unions are meant for unskilled labor has always been the main driver for the antagonism facing the debate. Empirical studies have also shown that decreased productivity has been observed in areas with high levels of unionization. That notwithstanding, a lot of benefits such as access to social insurance have been recorded in almost all unionized workers. The unions also serve to complement the legal frameworks supporting workers’ rights. The application of critical thinking is vital in helping differentiate facts from fallacies and ambiguities in several works on unions.
Browne, M. Neil and Keeley, Stuart. Asking the Right Questions. Ninth Edition, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc. 1994.
Clemens, Jasons, Karabegovic, Amela & Veldhuis, Niels. ‘’Unionization: The Facts Please.’’ Fraser forum 1.4 (2003): 34-36.
Lane, Michael. Reducing inequality: are unions the answer? 2009. Web.
Leslie, B. Alexander. Professionalism and unionization: compatible after all? Social Administration: managing finances, personnel, and information in Human.
Services; Volume II of social administration: The management of the social Services, 2nd Ed. Ed. Slavin, Simon. New York: Haworth Press Inc, 1985. 243-256.
Mishel, Lawrence & Walters, Matthew. How unions help all workers. Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper, 143 (2003): 1-18.
Rhoades, Gary. Managed professionals. Unionized faculty and restructuring academic labor. New York: State of New York University Press. 1998.