Why Unions Matter

Why Unions Matter

Why Unions Matter

Why Unions Matter

Synopsis

In this new edition of Why Unions Matter, Michael D. Yates shows why unions still matter. Unions mean better pay, benefits, and working conditions for their members; they force employers to treat employees with dignity and respect; and at their best, they provide a way for workers to make society both more democratic and egalitarian. Yates uses simple language, clear data, and engaging examples to show why workers need unions, how unions are formed, how they operate, how collective bargaining works, the role of unions in politics, and what unions have done to bring workers together across the divides of race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. The new edition not onlyupdates the first, but also examines the record of the New Voice slate that took control of the AFL-CIO in 1995, the continuing decline in union membership and density, the Change to Win split in 2005, the growing importance of immigrant workers, the rise of worker centers, the impacts of and labor responses to globalization, and the need for labor to have an independent political voice. This is simply the best introduction to unions on the market.

Excerpt

Meadville, Pennsylvania, is a small town located ninety miles north of Pittsburgh. A few miles outside of town there is a factory that manufactures plate glass. It is owned by PPG industries, a large, profitable conglomerate, once one of the glass industry’s leaders. When the plant was built, the company was known simply as Pittsburgh Plate Glass, but it took on the more impersonal initials as it diversified. In 1994, it employed 330 production workers in rotating shifts, making plate glass twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Most of them are white men, although a significant number of women work the lines as well.

In the fall of 1994, one of the workers telephoned and asked me to speak to his coworkers about their legal rights. They were in the middle of a union organizing drive, and the management was turning up the heat. I said that I could not come unless the union trying to organize the plant approved. A few weeks later, he called to say that the union, the Aluminum, Brick, and Glass Workers (ABG, but now part of the United Steelworkers), had agreed that I should visit. In a fire hall close to the plant, I spoke twice to about sixty men and women. My talks were videotaped and later circulated around the plant. Six months after my visit, I returned at the request of the national union to speak again, the day before the election. I gave three speeches, one for each shift, to about a hundred workers. Unfortunately, our efforts were not sufficient to beat the corporation’s anti-union campaign. The . . .

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