by Ma Wen Jie
Labor unions formed in the 19th century as a response to wage and time exploitation of workers and dangerous working conditions. Although many people take the 40-hour workweek for granted, this standard was won through union efforts. Many people think unions are no longer necessary, but recent discoveries of wage theft among low-wage workers indicate that many of the issues that triggered union formation in the 19th century are still valid issues.
Equalization of Power
Labor unions equalize power between labor and ownership. According to David Edward O’Connor and Christopher C. Faille in their book “Basic Economic Principles: A Guide for Students,” labor unions increase the power of labor to be more on par with management through collective bargaining and strikes. Without this equalization of power, in some cases ownership and management may exploit the power inequality by lowering wages, increasing work hours, or forcing workers to work in unsafe conditions.