Contemporary Unionism in the United States

By Clyde E. Dankert | Go to book overview

17
Collective Bargaining (2)

The Trade Agreement

Unionism, collective bargaining, and the trade agreement. Trade unionism, collective bargaining, and the trade agreement are closely interrelated. When a number of workers form a union, it is their intention to engage in collective bargaining. And they hope that as a result of the process of collective bargaining they will obtain an agreement with their employer. The trade agreement is the goal, therefore, to which the union directs its efforts.

Although these three phenomena are intimately connected, they do not always co-exist. The fact that a union is formed is no guarantee that collective bargaining will follow. The union must attain a certain degree of power or numerical strength before this happens. In industries of an interstate nature, and it is in such industries that most unions are found, the union must have the support of the majority of the voting workers in the bargaining unit before it can become the official bargaining agency. This is in accordance with the National Labor Relations Act. (It should be added that a number of states have "Little Wagner Acts" of their own.) It is quite possible, therefore, to have unionism, represented by minority groups, without collective bargaining.

It is also possible to have unionism and collective bargaining without the trade agreement. A union may bargain collectively with an employer, but the two parties may not be able to come to an understanding. In other words the collective bargaining process may result in an impasse.

Although it is desirable to note these exceptions, it is still more desirable to emphasize the point that the three phenomena generally go hand-in-hand and one cannot think of unions without thinking of collective bargaining; and one cannot think of collective bargaining without thinking of the trade agreement.

Development of the trade agreement. The trade agreement has gone through an interesting metamorphosis. The first agreements--the earliest one on record dates back to 17951--took the form of "price lists" or "bills of prices" which the workers submitted to their employers for acceptance.

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1
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, September, 1910, p. 321.

-286-

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