Labor-Management Interactions in US History


Substantial socioeconomic transformations during the 1980s have had a comparable impact on personnel and labor-management interactions. A recurrent subject in flexible employment historiography is the collapse or change of the unspoken social compact that structured work and employment interactions (Kochan et al., 2019). Thus, this has aided in balancing employee and employer priorities from around the conclusion of World War II to the 1970s (Kochan et al., 2019).

Numerous variables have led to the collapse of the employee-employer relationship, including technological advancement, commercialization of labor and manufacturing economies (Kochan et al., 2019). This paper aims at discussing whether worker unions are significant today, the aftermath of the historical background of labor-management interactions, and the relevance of international labor movements.

Findings from The History of Labor-management Relationships in the United States

The history of the labor-management in the United States revealed the following as discussed. The labor organizations in the United States developed out of a desire to safeguard workers’ collective interests. Established labor groups pushed for higher salaries, comfortable work schedules, and improved working conditions for people in the manufacturing industries. The labor movement spearheaded attempts to end child labor, offer medical benefits, and assist wounded or retired employees.

For instance, in 1794, the Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers was founded in Philadelphia, signaling the start of sustained labor unions among working Americans (Mazzenga, 2017). From that point on, local craft associations multiplied in communities, issuing pricing information for their services, safeguarding their professions against weakened and low labor, and progressively seeking a reduced workday in the wake of industrialization.

With the establishment of the Mechanics’ Union of Trade Associations in Philadelphia in 1827, fundamental trade institutions merged craft-organized worker movements within a specific locality (Monahan, 2021). With the International Typographical Union establishment in 1852, national groups joined forces with local unions in the same trading activities across the United States and Canada (Monahan, 2021). Notwithstanding their labor restructuring discourse, the Knights of Labor recruited many people seeking to improve their current circumstances (Faue, 2017). As the Knights staged demonstrations and structured along industrial lines, the challenged national labor movement pressed the organization to limit itself to its declared labor reform objectives.

Additionally, within the trade union movements, discriminatory practices existed. As the sweeping technical revolution began to erode the crafting method of manufacturing, several national organizations, most prominently in resource extraction and the clothing industry, began to adopt an industrial base. However, most craft labor unions declined or struggled to recruit the less experienced, like iron and steel and meat processing.

Because skill lines frequently coincided with racial, cultural, and sexuality, the labor movement developed a racial and sexist hue. Whether officially or unofficially, the color bar expanded throughout the labor movement. In 1902, blacks constituted a lesser percentage of the total membership, with the majority of them separated in Jim Crow chapters (Snyder, 2018). A comparable regression transpired in the context of females and eastern European immigrants. In concept, they were treated equally but were isolated or discriminated against in fact.

Distribution of Powers within the United States Industries

Different industrial sectors within the United States have distinct ways in how their hierarchical structure looks like. However, most of them appear to have a similar power distribution system within them. Most industries within the United States have top executive management responsible for the overall administration of the industries. The executives are tasked with the following responsibilities: establishing an institutional framework and making long-range policies and tactics. Furthermore, the senior leadership must also develop guidelines to accomplish the industry’s lofty objectives and broad ambitions.

Below the executives are the various departments that act independently depending on the role assigned to them by the top management. For instance, the finance department in the industry serves the purposes of financing the industry’s operations, e.g., providing cash for purchasing raw materials for the production department. Consequently, they are mandated to pay wages for the human resource sector and settle the company’s bills and utilities such as electricity and water. Other departments include the Human Resource (HR), Operations Management (OM), and Procurement and Supply Chain departments tasked with separate responsibilities to achieve set goals.

Relevance of Labor Unions Today

The right of employees to form unions and bargain collectively with business owners is universally acknowledged as a fundamental human right throughout the world. Therefore, from my perspective, labor movements remain relevant in modern society. These worker unions have had a significant role to play over the years towards the lives and working conditions of the employees. Like they had earlier, labor unions in the United States grew out of an instinct to preserve employees’ common goals, established labor organizations today lobby for increased wages, more flexible work hours, and better workplace conditions in manufacturing sectors.

In support of my perspective, I will highlight the various importance that labor unions have played in ensuring that the needs of their members are met and that their working conditions are improved. First, unions contribute to democracy by providing that employees have a say in policy deliberations.

Executives, entrepreneurs, and chief executives band together to further their commercial development. Unions enable working families who are not CEOs or business owners to participate in policy issues that affect their lives. Second, organizations help minimize disparity and are necessary for low- and middle-wage employees to participate fairly in productivity expansion. Unions significantly impact union employees’ earnings and equivalent nonunion laborers’ incomes, as associations establish standards for entire sectors and vocations. Unions help level the playing field of salaries by providing a more tremendous wage increase to low- and middle-income professions than high-paid jobs.

Third, unions increase earnings for both unionized and non-unionized employees. Unionized workers leverage their numerical strength to win a more equitable share of the money they generate. Employers who are required to bargain collectively with their employees cannot undertake a technique of divide and rule among their employees. Workers motivated to organize a union increase salaries for both union and nonunion members. As an economic industry grows more united, nonunion companies must offer higher wages and better working workplace circumstances to retain talented employees, and standards of better salaries and working conditions become typical.

Lastly, labor unions contribute to advancing women’s earnings and the narrowing of racial wage disparities. Unions contribute to the advancement of women, black and Hispanic employees whose earnings have time immemorial stagnated behind those of their white counterparts (Wohl, 2017). The prosperity is enhanced by constructing pay accountability, resolving wage disparities, instituting sounder conditions for internal operations such as pay raises, and assisting laborers who have faced discrimination in achieving equity.

International Labor Movements

Due to the geographical mobility of labor, individuals can work and get employment in any part of the world. Therefore, in my perspective, I am in favor of international labor movements. The following significance of global labor unions would support the above view. The international labor standards are a technique for enhancing global economic effectiveness. International labor movements’ conformance is frequently accompanied by an increase in efficiency and economic growth. Minimum wage and work-hour regulations, and respect for equity can increase worker motivation and productivity and reduce staffing shortages. Safety regulations can help prevent costly catastrophes and medical expenses. Welfare benefits associated with global employee unions, such as unemployment compensation and active labor market regulations, help to allow job market adaptability and make financial liberalization and commercialization more feasible and popular.

Additionally, an international trade that operates on an equal basis is ensured by a worldwide workers union governing societal expectations. It assists businesses and governments in avoiding the inclination to reduce worker rights to gain a competitive edge in world commerce. Reducing working standards can promote the proliferation of low-wage, limited skill, and elevated turnover businesses and impede a nation’s development of more permanent high-skilled personnel, all while delaying trade associates’ economic expansion. Because global labor unions adopt standards that are minimal requirements implemented by government and development partners, it is to everyone’s advantage to have them followed uniformly.


In conclusion, the history of the labor-management interactions in the United States establishes that most worker unions were formed with the primary objectives to obtain better workplace conditions and salaries for their members. Moreover, there existed exclusion practices based on gender and racial backgrounds. As discussed, most industries in the USA have top executives running their industries with other departments working independently to achieve the organization’s laid objectives. The unions have been at the forefront of ensuring all inclusion regardless of race and ethnic background. On the other hand, international labor unions have proven to be essential in the modern world due to them providing opportunities and protecting workers worldwide through advocating for better terms of employment.


Faue, E. (2017). Rethinking the American labor movement. Taylor & Francis.

Kochan, T. A., Riordan, C. A., Kowalski, A. M., Khan, M., & Yang, D. (2019). The changing nature of employee and labor-management relationships. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 6, 195-219. Web.

Mazzenga, M. (2017). Trust and organized labor in the United States: A genealogy. In Living in an Age of Mistrust (pp. 102-110). Routledge.

Monahan, S. F. (2021). The American workingmen’s parties, universal suffrage, and Marx’s democratic communism. Modern Intellectual History, 18(2), 379-402. Web.

Snyder, J. A. (2018). Making Black history: The color line, culture, and race in the age of Jim Crow. University of Georgia Press.

Wohl, A. (2017). A New labor movement? Race, class, and the missing intersections between Black and labor politics. In The Expanding Boundaries of Black Politics (pp. 55-76). Routledge.

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