Trade Union and Labour union are the same but used differently depending on where you are in the world. Trade Union is mainly used in America while Labour Union is used in Great Britain. A Trade Union is a group of workers forming a legal unit. In daily speech it is called a negotiating unit that represents its members in matters of work rights and collective agreements. These organisations are financed by the members. The member fees finance offices and workers to help their members in legal matters. At workplaces people are elected to work on matters of the employers. The work they do is almost always non-profit. The elected Union workers are chosen on democratic principles.
Today unions are mainly formed to ensure improvement on salaries, working conditions or social and political status. When members come together in these matters, they make a larger impact because of their strength and power by standing together behind the demands. The Union negotiates with the employer and the organisations surrounding about collective agreements for all members. The most important purpose is to maintain or improve the conditions for the employees. This includes salaries, rules, managing complaints, rules on status and promotions and such. There are also negotiations on how to end an employment, from both sides, both on behalf of the employer and the employee. The rules must be very clear.
Different kinds of Unions
Unions can organize a special kind of workers, like carpenters or factoryworkers in different kinds of Craft Union Ships or organize members by the work they do in a certain business in what´s called Industrial Unionism. Another part is where you can find a cross section from different branches called General Unionism. Agreements between Unions and employers or working organisations are binding and summits to all members. Agreements can also include those that are not members of the Union but employed by a business following a Union agreement. Unions have laws and rules and they are bound to follow them.
Roots, Today and Future
The Unions have their roots in Great Britain where they evolved during the Industrial Revolution. If you look at the world you can find the largest amount of Union members in Nordic countries Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. In America most Unions are organised under two umbrella organisations, the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Federation. The later has its roots in the AFL-CIO but parted from it in 2005. Both organisations advocates politics and legislations for the Union workers in America and in Canada. The organisations run a clear and active politic, for example the AFL-CIO are very active on questions about global trade. In America in 2010, the share of workers that were connected to a Union was 11,4%. This can be compared to Finland with as much as 70%. The trend shows that Unions lose some of their members, mostly in the private sector. The reason, according to the Unions, seems to be the resistance from the employers. Workers in the public organisations, like police, military and state are the ones with highest rate of Union members.