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Private sector unions are regulated by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), passed in 1935 and amended since then.
The law is overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an independent federal agency.
Other forms of unionism include minority unionism, solidarity unionism, and the practices of organizations such as the Industrial Workers of the World, which do not always follow traditional organizational models.
Public sector worker unions are governed by labor laws and labor boards in each of the 50 states.
National labor unions began to form in the post-Civil War Era.
The Knights of Labor emerged as a major force in the late 1880s, but it collapsed because of poor organization, lack of effective leadership, disagreement over goals, and strong opposition from employers and government forces.
In general they have shown robust growth rates, because wages and working conditions are set through negotiations with elected local and state officials.It has been asserted by scholars and the International Monetary Fund that rising income inequality in the United States is directly attributable to the decline of the labor movement and union membership.Unions began forming in the mid-19th century in response to the social and economic impact of the industrial revolution.While manufacturing and farming steadily declined, state- and local-government employment quadrupled from 4 million workers in 1950 to 12 million in 1976 and 16.6 million in 2009.▪ Total: 11.1% ▪ Public sector: 35.7% ▪ Private sector: 6.6% Demographics ▪ Age 16–24: 5.1% ▪ 25–34: 10.0% ▪ 35–44: 13.0% ▪ 45–54: 14.4% ▪ 55–64: 14.9% ▪ 65 and over: 10.4% ▪ Women: 10.5% ▪ Men: 11.7% Today most labor unions in the United States are members of one of two larger umbrella organizations: the American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) or the Change to Win Federation, which split from the AFL-CIO in 2005-2006.
The Wagner Act, in particular, legally protected the right of unions to organize.