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Labor Unions

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Labor Unions and the Dynamics of Race in Unions

Labor unions have been in America for a very long time. There are many unions in a myriad of different fields. Labor unions were and are used to allow for equal treatment of workers. Employers always want to maximize their profits and they try to give the least to get the most in return. For reasons such as this is why unions were formed. Generally a union boss is appointed or hired to protect the rights and privileges of the employees. The union boss is generally very representative of the demographics of the workers. The leader of the employees needs to know what they want and what is fair for them and this is why he tends to represent one type of work force, such as the teachers union. This type of representation is made easier when most of the workers come from the same background. Background meaning family size, education, race, etc. Labor unions have helped shape the American work force, as have the backgrounds of the men and women who have worked in them. America was founded on diversity and the freedom to choose. Many different backgrounds have found their way into America and labor unions. As stated earlier, labor unions have people of the same background in them. America's first settlers were generally of the same background and because of that, so were the members of the first labor unions. As the United States expanded so did the work force and the diversity in it. Diversity and understanding the challenges and benefits is what enables America to be great. In the pages of this paper we are going to look at the change in the make-up of labor unions by the entrance of African-Americans and how they have influenced America and the labor unions for the better. This paper is and expansions on my paper "A Shield Against the Power of Industrial Capitalism".

In my paper I examined an article by Alexander Saxton. In his writing he discussed the formation of unions in the Alabama coalfields. The make up of the coal unions were very similar to the make-up of America and unions today. This was very peculiar to have such a conglomeration of workers because of the racial sentiment amongst the races of that day. The workers in the coalfields had the same background generally, except for their racial roots. These miners were brought together as the title of the article states, to protect them from the power of industrial capitalism. These men did not want to interact with one another except through the confines of work. Saxton stated that they lived in tent cities and that the blacks lived in one section of the city and the whites lived in another. This type of behavior confirms their disdain one for another, but the fact they formed unions together showed their need for one another as well. This dependency one for another was shown in their unity of union even in defeat to the owners of the coalfields. These men would continue to form unions and remain a union even though they would lose and the owners saw them very weak. It is interesting to see the acts of these men and it invokes an underlying question of would they have been better off forming their own separate unions amongst themselves? The answer is probably no because they showed solidarity by staying together through thick and thin. They also displayed that race shouldn't play a deciding factor in how labor unions are formed. The constitution states that all men are created equally with unalienable rights. The miners of the Alabama coal fields showed that men should be paid according to labor performed and not by the color of their skin. This was a valuable lesson and is a good model of forming a union and how blacks could be included in the work force. The work force around the world has changed, as have the means of production. America is a prime example of these changes internationally. America started with the initial settlers and then indentured servants were factored into the work force. After the indentured servants cam the slaves and then they were freed and became part of all the workers. At all levels of change some one was excluded from society or the privileges or benefits of the work field. When unions were originally formed they include only Caucasian males. This was due to the fact blacks were not free and when they were eventually given their freedom they were not considered as equals to every one else. In the same Journal of Labor History that Saxton published his article Jacqueline Jones talked about the effectiveness of just white or black labor unions. She stated that oddly enough that they were not as effective in the long run as were the biracial labor unions. Ms. Jones stated that the solidarity amongst all-white labor unions wavered due to the heterogeneity. On the other hand the all-black unions faltered because of the clash between the black union workers and the black middle class. It is interesting to see the clashes or the things that lessened the power of the all-white of black unions. It is even more intriguing to see that interracial labor unions were able to form even during periods that the Jim Crow laws were in place. The Jim Crow laws were laws that discriminated against blacks. Laws such as not having the right to vote and having to sit on the back of the bus were the types of Jim Crow laws. America and labor unions were much better off for having diversity. Diversity is a good thing and can have good or bad responses depending on how it is managed.

Diversity is very prevalent today in America and our work force. This is probably because of the way we were able to handle it during the years. As mentioned earlier Jim Crow laws segregated blacks from whites and this was also the case in labor unions until the 1920's. There was a lack of communication or understanding amongst the people. Interracial labor unions were formed out of necessity not desire. When people are faced with injustice they tend to search for justification or revenge and they do not care who helps them obtain that. As was the case in the Alabama coalfields where they were facing unfair labor practices the first interracial labor unions faced the same dilemma. Today interracial unions are not formed today out of necessity, but out convenience because of the strides we made. Some may disagree and say that we have not made many strides, but I disagree. There is a learning curve in all things and eventually all things will work out if we give them time to pan out. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that black and white would coexist and to a major extent they due and the continuance of interracial unions displays that. One field of work that has taken some gigantic steps in interracial labor unions is professional sports.

Professional sports only



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