Trade union

From ProleWiki, the proletarian encyclopedia

"Union" redirects here. For other uses, see Union (disambiguation).

A trade union is an organization of workers created to improve working conditions. Unions are often targeted and suppressed by capitalists in order to increase profits at the expense of the workers.

Common issues

Settler colonialism

In settler-colonial countries, much of the white-controlled labor movement takes a chauvinist stance and sides with the white bourgeoisie against indigenous peoples. For example, in South Africa, white workers led a strike in the 1920s with the slogan, "Workers of the world unite and fight for a white South Africa!".[1]

By country

United Kingdom

Several rudimentary political unions were formed in the 1830s and 1840s, with noteworthy causes including the Merthyr Rising and the Tolpuddle Martyrs. However, one of the first proper trade unions to be established was the Amalgamated Society of Engineers in 1851. The formation of several similar "amalgamated" unions representing different industries followed.[2] Trade union activity peaked in the 1970s, culminating in the 1984 miners' strike, and has since witnessed a decline in membership from a peak of 13.2 million in 1979 to 6.6 million in 2019.[3] Historically, the relationship of Britain's trade unions to the Labour Party has been a key point of contention, and while the biggest trade unions remain affiliated to the party, in 2022 some of most militant unions either remained unaffiliated or were considering disaffiliation.[4]

United States

The first nationwide union in the United States was the Knights of Labor, which was later replaced by the American Federation of Labor. Many unions were targeted by the Pinkerton detective agency.[5] The IWW became the first union to include workers of all races.[1] In 1983, 16.2% of private sector workers were unionized; by 2020, the percentage had decreased to 6.3%, even though 65% of people support unionization.[6] Many companies, including Amazon, Google, Nissan, Tesla, Trader Joe's, and Walmart have taken a side against unions.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bill Fletcher Jr. (2020-07-01). "Race Is About More Than Discrimination" Monthly Review. Archived from the original on 2023-03-23.
  2. Workers Party of Britain (2022-04-22). "Trade Unionism in Britain – Past, Present, ...Future?" YouTube.
  3. Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (2021). Trade union statistics 2020.
  4. Mason Boycott-Owen (2022-05-29). "Keir Starmer is not on the side of workers, says RMT chief" The Daily Telegraph.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Colin Hanner (2021-05-14). "A brief history of union-busting" Unit. Archived from the original on 2021-06-20. Retrieved 2022-06-01.
  6. Megan Brenan (2020-09-03). "At 65%, Approval of Labor Unions in U.S. Remains High" Gallup. Archived from the original on 2022-05-14. Retrieved 2022-06-01.