Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Associations
Trade unions constitute the largest and most influential employee organisations in the United States. A majority of trade unions are organised under two umbrella organisations: the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations (“AFL-CIO”) and the Change-to-Win Federation.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organisation dedicated to representing employers’ interests by engaging in lobbying campaigns, is the largest employers’ organisation in the United States. In certain heavily unionised sectors (e.g., healthcare), employers can and do create multi-employer bargaining organisations to collectively negotiate the terms of collective bargaining agreements with employee-elected unions.
Rights and Importance of Trade Unions
As of late 2019, 14.6 million workers, or 10.3% of the workforce, are members of a trade union. Public-sector employees are unionised at a much higher rate (33.6%), than private-sector employees. Only about 6.2% of private industry employees are unionised. Private-sectors industries with the highest rates of unionisation are utilities (23.4%), transportation and warehousing (16.1%), telecommunications (14.1%) and construction (13.6%). Among occupational groups, education, training, and library occupations (33.1%) and protective service (33.8% each) had the highest unionisation rates in 2019. While only a small portion of the U.S. workforce is unionised, trade unions wield significant lobbying power.
Employees have the right to self-organisation, to form, join or assist labour organisations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection. In addition, the right of employees to refrain from any or all such activities, is a protected right.
Other Types of Employee Representative Bodies
Once certified as the exclusive bargaining representative of the employees in the bargaining unit, the employer must begin bargaining for a collective bargaining agreement in good faith with the union as the employee’s exclusive bargaining agent. Outside of the representation by a union, or as otherwise provided by a negotiated collective bargaining agreement, employees do not have an independent right to management or board representation. American law does not recognise works councils or other forms of employee representation.