M3D1: Key Characteristics of Union Organizations

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This discussion will highlight the similarities and the differences between the structure and governance of union organizations and of management organizations. Understanding the structure helps clarify the complexities inherent in the U.S. system of labor relations.

As the labor movement grew, the structure of labor unions became more complex. Unions generally are considered to have a three-tier structure – local level which generally is a single-employer unit, the national level that generally operates within a specific occupation or industry, and the federation of national unions. There are variations – for example, in the construction industry, the local level of the union may deal with many employers within specific geographic area. It has been argued that the hierarchical structure of the unions has hurt unions by limiting the participation of members in the union’s governance. Others see the structure of unions as a natural reaction to the hierarchical structure of American business.

In your initial post please address the following:

Given your understanding of union structure and governance, identify one positive outcome and one negative outcome that can be attributed to the structure.
What recommendation would you make to enhance the positive outcome and/or minimize the negative outcome? You must provide support for your response by referencing information in the textbook or other academic source.

Once you have posted your response, you must also read through your classmates’ posts. From the responses choose some that you find interesting and respond substantively to them. You are also responsible for responding to students who post comments regarding your initial posts. The goal is to create a dialog among the class.

See the Course Calendar for due dates for posts and responses.

Consult the Discussion Posting Guide for information about writing your discussion posts. It is recommended that you write your post in a document first. Check your work and correct any spelling or grammatical errors. When you are ready to make your initial post, click on “Reply.” Then copy/paste the text into the message field, and click “Post Reply.”

To respond to a peer, click “Reply” beneath her or his post and continue as with an initial post.

This discussion will be graded using the discussion board rubric. Please review this rubric, located on the Rubrics page within the Start Here module of the course, prior to beginning your work to ensure your participation meets the criteria in place for this discussion. All discussions combined are worth 20% of your final course grade.




Expert Answer

Key Characteristics of Union Organizations

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Labor unions today are generally organized in a three-tier organizational structure. The lowest level is simply a single-employer or several employers located in one geographical region. The national level usually conducts operations within a single industry, such as the manufacturing industry. The highest level of organization is the federation of national unions. Labor unions adopt a hierarchical structure mostly because they result in easy management. The hierarchical structure of labor unions is selected to mirror the most common structure of American organizations. It results in time savings since there are minimal formalities in the decision-making process (Harper, 2015). With the hierarchical organizational structure, decisions are made by the leaders at the top of the structure, and there is no need for the involvement of all the organization’s members. However, even though the structure results in time-saving, it also limits the participation of members in governance and decision making (Jones, 2013). In order to minimize this problem, I would recommend that the leaders of labor unions increase member participation in governance by setting up offices where members can provide their contributions to union decisions and governance. This would save time since there would be no need to hold meetings during every decision-making process, and would ensure member involvement in governance.


Harper, C. (2015). Organizations: Structures, processes, and outcomes. Routledge.

Jones, G. R. (2013). Organizational theory, design, and change. Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Pearson.


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