Strikes are back in fashion in the United States. The Hollywood strike is the most obvious face of a union movement that is gaining strength in the United States, but it is not the only one. The United Auto Workers (UAW) union has announced that for the first time in the history of the North American country, workers from the three major unionized automakers (General Motors, Ford and Stellantis) will strike simultaneously. These are just a few of the recent major labor movements in the United States. Especially at a time when unions have the highest approval rating since 1965.
How do unions work in the USA? American unions address only their members. Something that doesn’t happen in Spain. In our country, a union negotiates an agreement, an improvement with a company, with an employer, and we all benefit from it. But not in the United States. There, whatever a union achieves remains for those who belong to the union that received the benefit. And in general there is no collective agreement. The agreements only apply per company.
However, it is difficult to organize a union in a company in the United States. To form a union in an American company, workers must support a vote on whether or not to form a union. And then all workers have to vote for it. And it will be approved if half plus one of the workers support it. Furthermore, there are no unions such as Workers’ Commissions or UGT in the United States. The unions apply to every company that can be grouped. Or by a sector that can be grouped. But there is no transversal union that applies to all companies or all areas.
There is also limited freedom of association in the USA. They have to vote to decide whether there is a union. And you must tell your company that you belong to a union. This means that the employee is highly exposed to the company and can be put under pressure by the employer, for example through dismissal. And although there are laws that try to prevent this, it is quite easy to shoot in the United States. However, unions have achieved something very important: to work, you have to be a union. It’s true that it doesn’t happen in all companies and in all professions. But in some companies they have succeeded. And that means that when they make an improvement, that improvement is applied to everyone in the company. And if they go on strike, no one will work. An example of this is the acting world, where you have to be unionized to work. Now their union has gone on strike and everyone has taken part.
And since there are no transversal unions, in the end each union only fights for the employees. And the greatest solidarity you can get from other unions is for them to join the pickets we see protesting at the doors of workplaces and help create visibility.
Membership is not high in the United States. Only 10.3% are connected there. A similar figure to that in Spain, where it is just over 12.5%. But in the American case, according to experts, this is explained by the fact that labor mobility is high and does not pay off; because the employee is used to negotiating individually