Trade Unions

A short history of American trade unions

Democratic Presidential candidates are trying to woo organised labour
With 14 months left to go before the next Presidential election in the United States, Democratic candidates are busy vying for the attentions of the country's trade unions. 

There are currently 21 candidates hoping to win the Democratic nomination to run for president in November next year. Most have been romancing organised labour, visiting picket lines and voicing support for striking voters. And this week, Senator Bernie Sanders became the first of them to accept the endorsement of a national trade union.

However the trade union movement in the United States has become a shadow of its former self, which spurred the BBC's Matthew Davies to take an extended look at the American labour movement and where it's going.

(Image: USA Labor movement, workers union strike concept with male fists raised in the air fighting for their rights, American national flag in out of focus background. Credit: Getty Images)

Air industry a 'pocket of trade unionism'

Today Programme

BBC Radio 4

Heathrow airport
PA Media

A strike planned by Heathrow Airport workers on Monday has been called off, as talks continue to stop a further walkout on Tuesday.

Some 2,500 workers had planned to strike on both days in a row over pay.

Around 4,000 Unite members voted on the airport's revised pay deal on Friday - which Heathrow says is worth 7.3% over two-and-a-half years - with 88% opting to strike.

Andy Cook is chief executive of employee relations advisory firm Marshall James.

He tells Radio Four's Today programme that about one quarter of UK workers are trade union members but in the travel industry, including the rail and air sectors, strong "pockets" of membership exist.

"They are groups of workers that are still heavily unionised," he says.

TUC calls for flexible working during heatwave

Man using laptop while wearing shorts sitting at a desk
Getty Images

Employers should allow staff to work flexibly and have a relaxed dress code during this week's UK heatwave, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has said.

Temperatures are set to top 35C and TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "It's in bosses' interests to provide a cool and comfortable work environment."

The TUC wants people to be able to travel at different times or work from home and wear more casual clothing.

It adds staff should have breaks often and cold drinks should be available.

The 'Mama Union' of Kenya

Rose Omamo came through the ranks at her assembly plant to lead a national union in Kenya
Rose Omamo is the General Secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Kenya Metal Workers. She trained as a mechanic and started out working as an assembler but as one of only two women working with hundreds of men she realised that the only way to defend her rights was to stand as a shop steward. Known as 'Mama Union,' the members of her organisation are still 90% male.

Image: Rose Omamo
Credit: Arbetet Global