Monday, February 4, 2008

Development of Trade Unions


Beginning in the eighteenth century, much of Western society, with most changes occurring earliest in the United Kingdom, witnessed a transformation from an agrarian culture with craft based production, to the first industrial revolution. Within this transformation several changes provided much of the impetus for the rise of the trade union. These changes sparked rising fears in the crafts and guilds of the time, who feared encroachment on their established jobs, including changes in wages and work methods [2]. Additionally, the rapid expansion of the industrial society was to draw women, children, workers from the rural community, and immigrants to the work force in larger numbers and new roles. Working conditions and wages did not meet modern standards. This pool of labor spontaneously organized in fits and starts throughout its beginnings, and would later be an important arena for change.
Trade unions have sometimes been seen as successors to the guilds of Medieval Europe, though the relationship between the two is disputed.Medieval guilds existed to protect and enhance their members' livelihoods through controlling the instructional capital of artisanship and the progression of members from apprentice to craftsman, journeyman, and eventually to master and grandmaster of their craft. They also facilitated mobility by providing accommodation for guild members traveling in search of work. Guilds exhibited some aspects of the modern trade union, but also some aspects of professional associations and modern corporations.
Additionally, guilds, like some craft unions today, were highly restrictive in their membership and only included artisans who practiced a specific trade. Many modern labor unions tend to be expansionistic, and frequently seek to incorporate widely disparate kinds of workers to increase the leverage of the union as a whole. Today labor union might include workers from only 1rade or craft, or might combine several or all the workers in one company or industry.

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