The union power structure. The vast majority of today's unions are divided into two separate labor federations: The American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organzations (AFL-CIO) and the Change to Win federation, which was started as a result of AFL-CIO infighting in 2005. The AFL-CIO is comprised of 56 separate national and international unions, while the Change to Win Federation is comprised of seven.
Nearly all unions are national unions which are called "internationals." Then, below the international, unions are typically divided up into regions and/or districts which the local unions belong, through which the union members pay their monthly dues and/or fees.
Unions are controlled from the top down. Though unions began as worker-based organizations more than 200 years ago, unfortunately for many union members today, unions have evolved over the last century to become like many of the corporations that they were initially formed to fight. Unfortunately for so many unionized workers, today's union leaders are more like businessmen who traffic in the labor of others.
Are unions a democracy or a dictatorship? While unions of yesteryear tended to operate more democratically at the local level, the real decision-making power in today's unions comes from the international union's officers at the top.
If a local union does not follow the rules and edicts of the international union and its constitution, nearly all international unions can take over the local union and oust the local leaders, even if the local leaders were democratically elected by the local's membership. Today, unions are a multi-billion dollar industry led by union bosses that, in many cases, control their union empires like fiefdoms of the dark ages.
Union Rules & Union Trials. Nearly every union has a union constitution which all union members are required to follow. When a union member breaks a rule found in a union constitution, it is not uncommon for the union to place that member on trial. If a member is found guilty at a union trial, a union is legally allowed to fine that member money, suspend the his/her membership, or expel the member. It is not unusual for union members who are found guilty at a union trial to be fined hundreds, thousands, and sometimes even tens of thousands of dollars.
For more information about union constitutions and union trials, go here.
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