Union Structure Sample Essay Paper

Union Structure Sample Essay Paper

Union Structure

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Union Structure Sample Essay Paper

Union Structure

All unions have a hierarchical structure of an organization. An international or national union is the largest union in labor relations. International unions are made up of numerous local unions whereby local unions are made up by numerous bargaining unions.

A union’s organizational structure is affected by a number of things. First, the external factors influence the organizational structure. External factors include the politico-legal environment, the characteristics of the product market and the bargaining partners. When all these external factors are taken into consideration, the goals of the union also influence its structure. This includes both workplace and external goals. From the set goals of the union, three types of structures can be formulated- vertical, horizontal or bargaining structure. Various strategies like mutual insurance, collective bargaining, legislative enactment, and confrontation can help in achieving the set organizational goals. It is through these three different types of structures and strategies that the performance of a union is achieved.

Unions require finances to conduct their daily activities. There are various sources of finance for unions. The three major sources of revenue for unions include dues collected from members, income from investment and charges like fees and fines that members pay. There are two broad categories of union finances- the day-to-day operations of a union and the fiduciary obligation of officers. The fiduciary obligation involves issuing pension, collection, and trusteeship of welfare benefits to its members.

The change to win coalition from AFL to CIO is a strategy that targets adequate representation of workers who have not been previously represented. However, it faces the challenge of a defection of the Chang To Win Coalition which has decreased the number of finances it receives (Lange, Ross & Vannicelli, 2016). The AFL-CIO has a solid relationship with various state and local central bodies. The bodies are used for lobbying and political purposes, endorsing various state political candidates and they reflect the industrial composition of an area. Through the Change To Win Coalition, quality control and production is regulated.

A National Union

    It is also referred to as the international union. Initially, it was formulated to establish the jurisdictions in job territories and over workers in some specified crafts. However, with the elapse of time, the objectives of formation of a national union changed. A national union has two main objectives. First, a national union organizes to increase the labor force within the industry and secondly, it aims at providing representation services. This is to enhance the well-being of members. It operates on a full-time basis. Primary authority within the national union is vested within the union movement and most of the members of national unions are from Canada and the United States of America.

    National unions practice a democratic system of governance. There is the election of officers who are required to meet after every five years minimally. Each local union is expected to select a delegate and send him or her on a per capita basis. Alternatively, delegates may be selected as field representatives.

    National unions can be merged through absorption or amalgamation. In absorption, one union ceases to exist and is completely owned by the other union. In amalgamation, both combining unions cease to exist and a new union is formed. During merging, the two or more companies can relate symbiotically, or through commensalism or a scale. The symbiotic relationship involves two unions depending on each other for survival. The commensalism relationship one union may benefit from the other without harming or making the other union lose its value.

A Local Union

 A local union is a branch of a national or international trade union and is often referred to as local. It is governed by their own governing bodies that represent the national unions’ interest. Besides, it responds to the desires of the constituents and organizes meetings for its members. A local union also represents employees in their daily dealings with employers. Local unions work I defined jurisdictions (Watson, 2018). These jurisdictions are defined by the type of activity a union is involved in, the geographical area of operation of the union, the level of the union government applying the jurisdiction and the type of work that is performed in the union.

In the operation of a local union, two main committees aid in governance. While the executive committee focuses on establishing local policies, the negotiation committee focuses on reviewing the members’ grievances, negotiating with the management and contracting changes. There exist some other committees within the local union, but they perform other different functions. Some of these functions may include planning recreational activities and formulating political actions as well as organizing and foreseeing membership. When a local union is dealing with multiple employees, it hires a business agent. The functions of the business agent include ensuring that signed contracts are strictly followed as well as helping refer members for employment opportunities (Finkel, 2015). The agent is also essential in cases where members are working on a project. The agent often moves between employers and as soon as one project is completed, they shift to another project.  A steward is appointed at the work –unit level. The role of the steward is to represent employee grievances to the employer; collect any dues and solicit participation in union activities. Stewards are often regarded as the most senior members of a unit and they are vulnerable because their position is an advocate by nature.

Employment in the local union may be unionized. In this case, anybody who is an employee in the union is automatically a member of the union. However, when considering the functional democracy of employment, the parties are often considered to be the employer and the union. The due processes in a local union are administered by either the executive board through the local constitution whereas the negotiation committee administers the labor contract. Independent local unions represent the employees of one employer. They are often not affiliated with a national union, unlike other local unions. The main aim of formation of an independent local unit is to put pressure on the employer by threatening to join the national union.

All the committees and other departments in the union practice the rule of democracy whereby majority rules and everyone is entitled to their individual opinion. In this aspect of democracy, officers in various positions in the union are thus elected with very few nominated individuals. Elections occur on a three-year basis as per the requirements of the Landrum-Griffin Act (Fossum, 2014). Limited terms govern the election process. Some unions practice dual governance. This is majorly when the open-shop industry is made up of more than three bargaining units. A bargaining unit is lower than a local unit in the international trade union structure. In such a case, three negotiating committees issue three separate contracts and local union members are allowed to vote for the local officers. Members of the bargaining unit are also allowed to vote on their contracts.

A Bargaining Unit

    It is a group of employees who have common identifiable and clear interests that are represented by a local union. It is made up of not less than three employees and the majority of its members should support its existence.

When formulating a bargaining unit, a selected procedure is used to ensure stable and workable unions are formed (McGraw-Hill, 2012). An inclusion and exclusion criteria to determine who joins the union is formulated and used. The inclusion and exclusion criterion is governed by the Fordham Law. The type and required scope of a bargaining unit are determined by the board. Various craft units are certified and bargaining units are formed.


The union structure follows the hierarchical order, whereby I descending order, the highest in the national union, followed by the local union and the bargaining unit is the smallest. Various factors affect the structure of a union. These factors include external factors, the goals of the unions, strategies formulated to achieve goals and the preferred type of structure. The three major sources of revenue for unions include dues collected from members, income from investment and charges like fees and fines that members pay. A national union is formulated in order to organize and increase the labor force within the industry and secondly, it aims at providing representation services. A local union, on the other hand, responds to the desires of the constituents and organizes meetings for its members. A local union also represents employees in their daily dealings with employers and represents the interests of the national union. A bargaining unit made of not less than three people discusses common interests that are forward to the local union for representation at the national union.  


Finkel, G. (2015). The economics of the construction industry. Routledge.

Fossum, J. (2014). Labor relations. McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Lange, P., Ross, G., & Vannicelli, M. (2016). Unions, change and crisis: French and

Italian union strategy and the political economy, 1945-1980. Routledge.

McGraw-Hill (2012) Labor Relations 11th edition.

Watson, D. H. (2018). Managers of discontent. Routledge.

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