Local Unions: Types, Structure & Leadership

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  • 0:00 Union Structure
  • 1:33 Local Union Organization
  • 3:11 Craft Vs. Industrial Unions
  • 4:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Loy

Dr. Loy has a Ph.D. in Resource Economics; master's degrees in economics, human resources, and safety; and has taught masters and doctorate level courses in statistics, research methods, economics, and management.

This lesson identifies important aspects of how local unions are structured and organized. It also looks into how leadership roles are developed at local levels. Key differences between craft and industrial unions are highlighted.

Union Structure

Ray recently landed a job with Control Distribution, a trucking company that delivers tractors and attachments for a large equipment manufacturer. As a member of the Teamsters Local Union 999, he takes a pledge to work toward meeting the terms of the Teamsters contract. Having never been a member of a local union before, Ray questions whether this is beneficial for his future employment. Let's look into what happens when Ray becomes a local union member.

Labor unions have a long history in the United States. The role of a union is to bargain with an employer, usually large in size, for better wages, benefits, safety, and working conditions. This is typically done at the national level. Being a part of a labor union gives employees representation as a group, which offers much more strength than if workers negotiate individually or even locally. This is important for Ray because the ultimate outcome for an employer and union negotiation is a contract that he must follow.

Union contracts are agreements worked out for a set time period, such as one, two or five years, that define what work will be done and how it will be done for a specific amount of compensation. They are often contentious when being negotiated. Strikes are not unheard of when contracts are not settled to the satisfaction of workers.

To understand contracts and negotiations, Ray receives guidance from his local union.

Local Union Organization

Local unions are organized as smaller groups of employees, which are represented by a name and number in association with the larger, national union. For example, Teamsters Local Union 999 might be a group of members from freight, fuel, and construction industries in and around Wilmington, North Carolina. It might fight for new grievance procedures, layoff protocols, and safety standards.

Each local union typically represents a geographic area but could represent a unique trade group within the larger union. Let's say Teamsters Local Union 999 is asking for safety protocols related to salt water causing problems with brakes on trucks. Instead of having a once a year inspection, union members want two inspections per year. Because this is unique to beachfront areas like Wilmington, this is something more appropriate for local union leadership to address.

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