Labor Union Goals and Objectives

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Labor unions exist to give a voice to working men and women. Unions represent workers during the process of collective bargaining, lobby on behalf of workers in an effort to influence government decisions and lend support to candidates running for public office. The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of 2012, 14.4 million workers were members of a labor union and another 1.6 million workers were covered by union-negotiated labor contracts.


Of the approximately 85 national labor unions active in the United States, most are aligned with either the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations or the Change to Win Federation. The AFL-CIO identifies respect for workers, fairness, training opportunities and voice as its driving or main objectives. Although Change to Win mirrors these overall objectives, instead in of identifying each one individually, they summarize using a slogan called “Good Jobs Now.”

Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining is a goal-oriented process that seeks to fulfill labor union objectives. It involves negotiations between labor union representatives and an employer that determine conditions of employment. The National Labor Relations Act – the main federal governing body – and state regulations define and control the negotiating process. Goals of collective bargaining typically include establishing wage scales, setting working hours and overtime policies, identifying training opportunities and requirements, setting health and safety standards, formalizing grievance mechanisms and establishing worker rights to participate in workplace or company affairs.


Both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win actively work to influence government policy and decision making. For example, a main lobbying goal for the AFL-CIO for 2013 is a campaign to influence Congress to raise the minimum wage. Change to Win focuses on The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act, which extends collective bargaining rights for California farm workers. Both encourage rank-and-file support and participation by asking union members to sign petitions and contact state representatives to voice their support.


In the 2012 presidential election, both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win moved forward to fulfill the objective of lending support to worker-friendly political candidates by setting a goal and taking a decidedly Democratic stand. Both encouraged rank-and-file members to re-elect President Barack Obama, saying Democratic leaders were allies of working Americans and the values workers cherish, including repairing the economy, restoring the middle class and sharing equally in an investment of the future of American workers.

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