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The Impact of Globalization on Union Membership

Table of contents:
1. Introduction
2. The essence of globalization
3. The decline of union membership under the impact of globalization
4. The difference in the union movement in different countries of the world
5. Conclusion
6. Works cited

The process of globalization produces a profound impact on practically all spheres of life of the modern society and all countries of the world. In fact, even those countries that attempt to distance from global economic and political trends and tend to isolationism cannot fail to take into account the process of globalization. Nowadays, a country that develops international economic relations with other countries of the world gets inevitably involved in the process of globalization, which, to a significant extent, stimulates the cooperation between countries on all levels, including economic, political and socio-cultural. In such a situation, the question concerning possible effects of globalization arises. On the one hand, there are supporters of the process of globalization who sincerely believe that globalization accelerates the economic development on the global scale and, therefore, contributes to the progress and improvement of standards of life in all parts of the world. On the other hand, there is an absolutely different view on the process of globalization, as a tool of the expansion of well-developed countries that leads to the dramatic stratification of the contemporary world and growth of the gap between rich and poor (McBride, 2001). In such a situation, the position of the labor force, employees, which constitute the overwhelming majority of the population of the world is under a threat because the process of globalization increases the opportunities for large, multinational corporations to overcome traps, which are traditionally imposed on them by unions since the difference in legislation and the level of the development of the union movement in different countries of the world allows them avoiding a substantial impact of unions on their policy. As a result, the threat to the efficient protection of rights and interests of workers and ordinary employees by unions increases dramatically, while the declining union membership, which may be traced worldwide, is one of the major indicators which reveals signs of the possible crisis in the union movement in global terms. In such a situation, it is extremely important to understand the essence of the process of globalization and its impact on the union movement and union membership in different countries of the world.
The essence of globalization
In order to better understand possible effects of the process of globalization on unions and union membership, it is primarily necessary to dwell upon the essence of this process. Basically, globalization has started as the process of economic cooperation and integration of countries. To put it more precisely, the development of national economies and introduction of new technologies created the foundation for the construction of a totally new system of international economic relations. The introduction of technologies and improvement of logistics as well as the growing attractiveness of international markets for many companies, the formation of multinational corporations stimulated the trend to integration of economies of different countries and their growing interaction (Gomory, 182). In this respect, the example of the EU is particularly noteworthy since the formation of the EU may be viewed as a model of the process of globalization on the regional level.
In this respect, supporters of the idea that globalization will tie the world together argue that the contemporary EU is a perfect example that proves benefits of economic integration of countries, which, by the way, resulted not only in economic but also political and even cultural integration of countries (Siaroff, 1999). The integration of national economies determined by objective needs to expand markets led to the elimination of fiscal barriers and the emergence of free trade accelerated further development of the process of globalization.
As a result, nowadays, the world economy is closely intertwined and largest companies of the world operate worldwide that basically decreases the significance of the national markets. At the same time, the internationalization of trade and economic relations led to the growing number of direct foreign investments that, according to supporters of globalization, is a positive trend (Van der Borght, 200). In such a context, globalization is supposed to facilitate the flow of capital, human resources and technologies worldwide. Potentially, this means that the world economy will be more balanced as international cooperation and competition stimulates leading companies expand their business and enter markets of developing countries, where they could build their plants, introduce their production facilities, establish their international standards of quality of production and work, etc. Naturally, in such a situation, it is possible to speak about the uniting power of globalization since people from different countries and cultures are working together and companies from developed countries are interested into the development of production and business in developing countries (Ogbu, 122). The latter should stimulate economic development of developing counties, which, by the way, also get access to markets of developed countries due to the emergence of free trade.
However, the actual situation is far from perfect and the process of globalization is not always positive, especially in relation to developing countries of the world. In this respect, it is important to underline that the process of globalization is consistently more beneficial for multinational corporations and developed countries because the elimination of fiscal barriers, which actually stimulate free trade, opens markets of developing as well as developed countries to the expansion of multinational corporations and companies operating in developed countries. In such a situation, each country attempts to take its own niche in the international market. However, companies based in developing countries prove to be uncompetitive, especially in high-tech and knowledge based industries, where companies from developed countries and multinational corporations dominate (Dunning, 231). As a result, developing countries are doomed to use either their natural resources which they supply mainly to developed countries or developed the main industry, which is, as a rule, not highly technological, such as the production of some agricultural goods, or diamonds, for instance.
As a result, the process of globalization makes markets of developing countries practically defenseless in face of the expansion of companies and multinational corporations from developed countries, while national companies become absolutely uncompetitive. In such a way, instead of tying the world together globalization leads to the pauperization of developing countries and enrichment of developed ones that widens the gap and polarize the world (Dunning, 1998). In such a situation, the position of workers and ordinary employees worldwide deteriorates consistently because the poor economic development of developing countries and the deterioration of socioeconomic position of employees in developed countries, because of the free movement of the labor force and elimination of barriers between countries, undermine the position of workers worldwide. Naturally, unions are particularly affected by the process of globalization since they are susceptible to the considerable external influences which weaken the role of union even in those countries where their position was traditionally very strong.
The decline of union membership under the impact of globalization
On analyzing the impact of the process of globalization on union membership, it is important to underline that, today, it is possible to trace a trend to the decline of union membership in many countries of the world. In this respect, it should be said that globalization creates conditions unfavorable for the development of the union movement. First of all, the elimination of fiscal barriers between countries, which stimulate the development of international trade and the formation of international networks and multinational corporations prevent unions from a strict control over the performance of large multinational corporations and their policy in relation to employees. As a result, the effectiveness of unions decreases consistently and employees feel dissatisfied with their membership in unions and naturally take decision to stop their membership in unions. In fact, the employees’ dissatisfaction with unions is one of the major causes of the decline of union membership in the modern world (Waddington, 2006).
Obviously, the dissatisfaction of employees with unions decreases their trust in the ability of unions to protect their interests and rights and, therefore, employees view their membership as useless or ineffective in the contemporary business environment. At the same time, union membership requires permanent pay offs, which become a considerable financial burden for employees (Soskice, 1999). Naturally, in the situation, when the role of unions decreases and the dissatisfaction of employees grows, union membership decreases steadily.
At the same time, along with the growing dissatisfaction of employees, it is possible to mention other causes of the decline of union membership. In this respect, it is worth mentioning such a cause as the redundancy or change of the workplace by employees (Waddington, 2006). In fact, today, the problem of redundancy becomes quite widely spread because the weakness of unions in developing countries and outsourcing of production in developed countries leads to consistent job cuts and, therefore, employees either lose their job or change their workplace.
On the other hand, it is necessary to understand that redundancy is another evidence of the weakness of unions and their inability to protect interests and rights of employees. To put it more precisely, the job cuts may be beneficial for owners of companies, but, obviously, they produce extremely negative impact on the life of employees. As a rule, the loss of a job means the consistent deterioration of the life of employees and members of the family because they lose a considerable part of their earnings. Consequently, they are forced to change their traditional lifestyle, limit the consumption of products and services they get used to while working (Rose and Chaison, 1996). In such a context, unions have to protect employees and minimize the risk of redundancy, which is probably one of the major threats to the well-being of employees. However, there are a lot of examples when unions have failed to prevent redundancy. For instance, it is possible to remind the redundancy in Sanmina, which resulted in considerable job cuts and employees were practically left aside without any substantial financial support from the part of the company or unions. Naturally, such cases decrease the popularity of unions.
Even if employees take independent decision to change an employer, they also stop their union membership because the new employment, as a rule, implies the new union membership. However, in the contemporary world, people tend to change their workplace faster than they have used to do before in the past (Van der Borght, 2000). In such a situation, the significance of union membership decreases because frequent changes of working places does not contribute to the stable union membership and any benefits from such membership for employees.
Furthermore, L. Scruggs and P. Lange (2002) underline the fact that economic globalization is marginal and conditional on the union movement. In actuality, the increasing international cooperation and internationalization of business contributes to the free labor force movement worldwide that increases the competition on the labor force market and, therefore, decreases the opportunities to influence the policy of employers even in spite of the pressure from the part of unions. In addition, the process of globalization leads to the growing trend to the weakening of the position of unions since the low development of the union movement in developing countries of the world deteriorates opportunities of unions in developed countries to influence the policy of large multinational corporations

The difference in the union movement in different countries of the world
In fact, the difference in the union movement in different countries of the world produces a profound impact on the decline of union membership. In this respect, it is important to underline that the difference in the union movement is quite substantial and it is not only the difference between the progress of unions in developed and developing countries of the world. For instance, M.J. Slaughter (2007) underlines the more advanced development of unions in Europe compared to the US. However, such a difference between the US and the EU does not prevent the decline of union membership. The decline of union membership is mainly determined by the inability of the unions to unite their efforts and oppose to the pressure from the part of employees.
On the other hand, it is important to underline that unions attempt to undertake counteractions in order to prevent the growing pressure from the part of employers, especially large multinational corporations through restructuring the organization of unions (Dunning, 1998). To put it more precisely, unions attempt to develop international structures and modernize their organizational structure in order to enlarge their opportunities to operate on the international level and, therefore, consolidate their policy and protect interests of employees and their rights on the international level.
However, such restructuring often results in the growing bureaucratization of unions and employees feel dissatisfied with unions (Rose and Chaison, 1996). The latter may be partially explained by the complexity of the organizational structure of unions. In fact, employees are not confident in reorganized and restructured unions and, what is more, they feel abandoned by unions because the gap between union leaders and ordinary members of unions grows wider. As a result, union membership decreases, in spite of efforts of unions to increase the efficiency of their work in regard to the protection of interests and rights of employees.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the development of globalization produces a profound influence on the development of the union movement. In fact, the process of globalization produces a multiple impact on practically all spheres of life and the union membership decline may be viewed as one of outcomes which is determined by the general socioeconomic effect of globalization. What is meant here is the fact that the role of large, multinational corporations increases consistently that leads to the increase of opportunities for employees to implement their policy concerning employees and conditions of work regardless interests of employees or position of unions. In fact, employers have got the access to the international labor force market and, therefore, they can manipulate with employees since they have a huge choice of labor force due to the elimination of frontiers and free movement of labor force within different regions of the world. As a result, unions, which mainly operate on the national level, can hardly resist to redundancy, for instance, which deteriorates consistently the position of employees. In such a situation, the effectiveness of work of unions decreases consistently provoking the growing dissatisfaction of employees with unions. In such a situation, employees, being dissatisfied with union, stop their union membership. At the same time, the difference in the union movement in different countries of the world also contributes to the decline of union membership because the lack of experience of union membership and their ineffectiveness dissuades employees join unions worldwide.

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