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Trade Unions | English Lesson

Nov 2, 2021

Our topic today is labor unions.

As always, let’s look first at some key vocabulary.

VOCABULARY

  • Labor Union: an organization of employees for dealing collectively with employers to improve –– for example –– safety standards, working conditions, and better wages and benefits. Expressions closely related to labor union are trade union and trade syndicate.
  • Collective bargaining: There are two words here. “Collective”, which means as a group, and “bargaining” which is another way to say “negotiating”. So, collective bargaining is negotiating as a unified group.
  • To strike: a refusal to work organized by the union as a form of protest, and to apply pressure on the employer during a negotiation. This is known as a “strike”.
  • To picket:  a group of people protesting outside a place of work, or some other location, trying to persuade others not to enter during a strike.

DISCUSSION

The general public hears about labor unions when there is a labor dispute.  That’s because when the negotiations don’t go well, the unions can sometimes take collective action to pressure their employers to meet their demands. This pressure can take many forms. One of the most well-known pressure tactics is for the union to call a strike, where workers refuse to work. Sometimes striking workers will even picket the company’s offices or factories. Have you ever seen this? Maybe on the news. I am talking about when striking workers gather together, some of them holding signs, sometimes chanting what they want. It is rare for labor disputes to deteriorate to a strike with workers picketing the offices. Both sides of the dispute usually want to avoid this type of conflict.

The overall impact of unions seems to vary from country to country. On one hand, research from Norway and other Nordic countries, which by the way have the highest levels of trade union density, has found that high unionization rates lead to substantial increases in firm productivity, as well as increases in workers’ wages. 

On the other hand, research in the United States finds that unions can harm profitability and reduce employment and business growth. 

My personal opinion is that while unions can provide higher wages and reduce inequality, they also restrict employment flexibility and hurt company profits.

What about the labor unions in your country? Are there many? Are they powerful? Let me know what you think in the comments section on our webpage. 

Okay, friends, let’s take one last look at our vocabulary from this lesson.

VOCABULARY REVIEW

  • Labor Union: an organization of employees for dealing collectively with employers to improve –– for example –– safety standards, working conditions, and better wages and benefits. Expressions closely related to labor union are trade union and trade syndicate.
  • Collective bargaining: There are two words here. “Collective”, which means as a group, and “bargaining” which is another way to say “negotiating”. So, collective bargaining is negotiating as a unified group.
  • To strike: a refusal to work organized by the union as a form of protest, and to apply pressure on the employer during a negotiation. This is known as a “strike”.
  • To picket:  a group of people protesting outside a place of work, or some other location, trying to persuade others not to enter during a strike.

CONCLUSION

If you enjoyed this lesson, check out our lesson on Hiring Sprees, and improve your English vocabulary. Also, if you have any suggestions or comments, contact us. I would very much enjoy hearing from you.

 

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