Labor Unions in the United States and Chile

The mutualism groups represented a natural development in United States and Chile. They had existed in most European nations as the elemental form of labor organization. In the Americas, they served as the center of assistance against professional risks as well as the social and cultural home of the workers. By means of a small financial sacrifice their members could benefit from medical assistance' a monetary subsidy in the event of sickness, and in case of death a contribution toward the funeral expenses. To all of this was added a fraternal sympathy and moral aid from one's associates. In this paper I would like to discuss the role of labor unions in United States and Chile and they impact to the societies.

In several countries, the mutual benefit societies have been an important center of reunion for more than a century and the social and cultural efforts growing from their meetings, night schools, and libraries have exercised a highly beneficial influence on the workers. Although the mutual assistance groups played a vital role in the United States and Chile movement of professional association, they did not undertake to resolve the variety of now problems which workers faced with the surge of twentieth-century industrialism. Then a certain class consciousness appeared as a logical product of harsh working conditions. A new type of organization arose, differing in both form and spirit from the mutualism associations.(4) The workers referred to these new groupings as "societies of resistance" because they represented an open fight with capital. Comprising one or several local unions, at times they incidentally formed strikes in a mining enterprise, a factory, or a workshop. Occasionally, as in the Chilean nitrate fields, they organized a general strike against an entire industry where the living and working conditions were unusually difficult. Due to the absence of a social tradition and especially because of their lack of experience in methods of union organization, many of the first resistance groups bad an ephemeral life.

Certainly, no one can deny the immense benefits which have accrued to labor under sympathetic administrations in U.S.A., Chile, and other countries. And yet, labor gains also have usually denoted labor losses as the cost of governmental protection.(2) For the closer unions affiliate with a "friendly" government the greater the danger that they will be reduced to political arms of the ruling group. Thus, they may lose their independent identity, negotiating through government offices and suffering from supervision of their internal organization and activities by government-appointed interceptors. (3) Also, at the same time that some unions tied to the government may enjoy unusual advantages, others attempting to maintain their identity may be severely subjugated. In addition, such governmental ties often involve labor in political issues which obscure their legitimate economic needs and goals. Finally, by hitching their cart to one political group, unions run the risk of suffering reversals when a more conservative regime ascends to power. Indeed, in United States, fluctuations between labor successes and failures directly derive from their relationship with government and the ruling political faction. Chile draws a distinction between two types of unions, industrial and professional. Industrial unions may be established among workers of the same enterprise, factory, or industry. They must number not less than twenty-five persons and must constitute a 55 per cent majority of the workers of that enterprise. Once the union has obtained legal personality, all the workers are considered organized in that establishment.(5) A professional union may be constituted among persons who perform. Union elections are also closely regulated, requiring the presence of an inspector from the labor department when balloting for leaders or for a strike. In United States, members of more than six months may vote, provided they are at least eighteen years of age. Chile extends the right to cast two ballots to workers with more than three years of service in the enterprise. A secret ballot is usually required in all Latin American nations. ...

Order now

Related essays