The Global Workforce and Unions
Labor unions in the United States began as a way to protect worker’s rights and interests in the company they worked for. They began after the Civil War, but lost momentum due to poor organization and leadership, and from very strong opposition from employers as well as the government. After WWII, President Roosevelt’s New Deal included the Wagner Act, which gave legal protection to unions and workers. From there, the legendary Teamsters and other powerful unions formed. Although the primary purpose was to benefit and protect employees, corruption and political interests became an integral part of many of ...view middle of the document...
Can unions successfully cross national borders, shed the negative reputation and represent the best interests of workers in a global market?
In order for a union to be able to work within a country outside the US, there is a basic criteria they will have to meet. The representatives of the union will have to understand not only the language but local and national culture of the people they will be serving. In the US, a handshake is a sign of trust and good faith, but in many Arab countries, shaking with the wrong hand is very insulting, and would cause a potential member or company representative to refuse negotiations. A union representative would most likely need to be a native of the country hosting the employer. This individual would help the union adapt to national laws, labor issues, and help be a liaison for employees. Every union in each country would work under the same basic policy, tweaking it where it was needed to conform where appropriate to abide by those specific national laws.
In many European countries, work days, holidays, sick leave, etc., are much varied from the US standard. Understanding and working with these traditions will go great lengths to making a union successful. Strong arm tactics and stonewall behavior will only serve to alienate any relationship an American company may begin to grow within that country.
In order to build up a membership of healthy proportion, a union will face the challenge of making their services and benefits attractive and useful to employees. They will have to prove that the union can be the champion of the worker, protect their rights and interests, without becoming a threat to the company or even the national culture. To renew the reputation as a positive advocate of the worker, policy and procedure would have to be very cut and dry, and have no exceptions on items of great importance. These policies would have to be explained to workers and employers alike, so that there were no misunderstandings. Things that needed to be altered for cultural reasons would have to be respected. For example, in a country where religion may dictate how someone dresses, or that requires prayer at certain times throughout the day, considerations would need to be taken and accommodations made. The United States is a relatively new country in comparison to others, and we are known for our ability to change and adapt to new things. An older, culturally settled country would be much harder to convince and gain trust from. The government itself would play a major factor in the ability of a union to even exist within its borders. Communist socialist countries would be difficult, if even possible, to maintain a union in. A union would have to be able to function within a country, but also be part of a multinational community. Communication with other “branches” in other countries would be essential, as well as the need to understand slight to major...