Broadly speaking, labor relations may refer to any transaction between employer and employees with regards to certain employment conditions. More frequently, however, labor relations refer to communication between management and a workforce that has been previously unionized, or has the probability to become unionized (Investor Glossary).
Whereas, as labor union is an alliance of employees recognized by law, who have organized themselves to communally protect their rights in the workplace and thereby influence their working conditions. Subsequently, the rights and privileges of the workers, have, including the wages they will receive, been enclosed in a written agreement called a union contract. This contract is an agreement between management and labor force that will be effective for an agreed period of time, after which, a new contract will have to be negotiated (AFL-CIO).
THE EVOLUTION OF UNIONS AND LABOR LAW
LABOR UNION HISTORY
Unions or “guilds” were first formed in Europe during the Middle Ages by the weavers, goldsmiths, fishermen, bakers, and glove makers; whereas, labor unions in America emerged during the Colonial Era formed by craftsmen. These were followed by significant strikes namely: Boston Tea Party in 1773, the New York Printers Union strike in 1796, carpenters in Philadelphia in 1797 and the cordwainers in 1799 (Devine, 2008).
Rash of unions happened in the nineteenth century with the formation of the National Labor Union (NLU) in 1866 followed by the Knights of Labor In 1869 and the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1886 (Devine, 2008; Carey, 2004). An enormous escalation in union membership occurred between 1915 and 1920 before the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) was born in 1935; after which the “great strike” took place in 1954 when peasants and workers of Honduras fought against the US colonialists.
Laws were created to diminish the numbers of strikes and thus caused a massive decline in union organizing – the 1990 Sherman Antitrust Laws, the 1914 Clayton Act, the 1926 Railway Labor Act (RLA), the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, the 1932 Norris-LaGuardia Act, the 1933 National [Industrial] Recovery Act (NRA), the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the 1936 Anti-Strikebreaker Law or Byrnes Act, the 1936 Walsh-Healy Act, the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, the 1947 Labor-Management Relations Act Taft-Hartley Act or Landrum-Griffin Act and the 1959 Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) (Union.org).
Due to the involvement of a wide range of clinical skills, the industry of health care delivery requires a labor-intensive process; in line with this, general and specialty hospitals personnel cost characteristically correspond to somewhat more than half of operating returns. It has always been a challenge to employ and retain the perfect ratio of qualified personnel and has become even more complicated in recent years. Because of this skilled labor shortage, financial incentives for employees are almost, if not at all, feasible. In a mature labor force with competitive dynamics, more and more workers crave for flexibility in the hours and number of times that they have to work in a week. In this case, quality health care delivery without doubt entails sufficient levels of qualified staffing that generally cannot be safely reduced; substituted, with less by other skilled personnel; or replaced by technology (Shoemaker & Howell, 2004).
For the reason that a big hospital has insufficiency in terms of wages and personnel staff, the current employees are likely resort to union organization in order for the management to listen and, consequently, determine these issues. In this paper, the definition of labor union and how labor unions started are presented. Significant labor organizations and the different government acts are also mentioned, along with some government agencies that administer these acts. The reasons why workers want to join, the advantages and disadvantages of joining, employer’s limitations and protection, and how to prevent, if possible, the organization of a union are reviewed herein.
History of Labor Union
Early American unions played a significant role in the struggle for independence. It was the time when the America was still under the colony of the British Empire. Common laborers united themselves and fought for freedom and equality (Carey, 2004; Devine, 2008).
In May 1973, the British parliament authorized the East India Co. to export half a million pounds of tea to the American colonies for the purpose of marketing it without imposing upon the company the customary duties and tariffs in order to solve the their problem of bankruptcy due to corruption and mismanagement. Then, on December 16 of that same year, during the so-called Boston Tea Party, a large band of patriots masquerading as Mohawk Indians called the Sons of Liberty boarded the tea ships. They went to work striking the chests with axes and hatchets and threw the tea into the sea (Historic Tours of America, Inc).
Another big strike happened in 1962 when the New York Printers Union strike occurred in sought of shorter work hours and higher pay (Carey, 2004). Led by Bertram A. Powers, the union held the first strike against New York’s eight daily newspapers demanding for higher wages and a contract set to expire at the same time. The strike shut down four newspapers, forced four others to a lockout, and affected 20,000 employees before a settlement ended it on April 1, 1963, Five years after that, four of New York’s dailies closed down or were combined which critics blamed on the strike which he fervently opposed stating that it had less to do with the strike but rather just a media hype. It was not until December 1974 that Powers was able to negotiate a 10-year contract that assured job security and lifetime employment for his members as newspapers converted printing from lead castings to “cold type,” or computerized pages (Pyle, 2006).
Other historical union strikes include, the Federal Society of Philadelphia Cabinet Makers who organized a strike early in 1796 opting for higher wages and for the protection of their mutual independence, followed by the carpenters in Philadelphia in 1797, and cordwainers or shoemakers in 1799 (Foner, 1947).
During the mid-19th century became the turning point of labor union history. Because of the realization of the escalating supremacy of their employers, the number of local labor union organizations increase steadily. In a number of cities, unions in various trades joined together in citywide federations (Devine, 2008; The Social Studies Help Center).
The National Labor Union (NLU) of 1866 was not exclusive to any particular kind of worker (Devine, 2008). Though it failed to persuade Congress to shorten the workday, it made its major breakthrough by convincing Congress to pass an eight hour work day for federal employees. It was a very feeble law and turn out to be a casualty of the across-the-board economic depression of 1873. However, truth be told, it was in spite of everything the primary attempt at labor law within the history of labor unions in America (Carey, 2004).
With the ultimate goal of organizing all workers of America, the Knights of Labor (KoL) was founded in 1869. They hoped to propose a plan for workers to bring about enthusiasm and ingenuity to their work, to promote the 6 hour day or 24 hour work week, and to advocate the principle that “An Injury to One is the Concern of All” (Knight of Columbus). They opened their membership with all workers whether skilled or unskilled, black or white, male or female. However, despite having the unified goal which is improving work hours and wages, members were fragmented by the rift between skilled and unskilled workers resulting in the organization’s downfall (The Social Studies Help Center).
In 1881, under the leadership of Samuel Gompers the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States of America and Canada. This union became the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1886 (Ohio Historical Society, 2008). This was organized with the view of bringing together the skilled workers and to express workers’ reluctance about the introduction of machineries, the subdivision of labor, the use of women’s and children’s labor and the lack of an apprentice system-so that the skilled trades. For the remainder of the twentieth century, the AFL-CIO was still the prevailing largest union organization in the United States (Carey, 2004).
The death of Gompers caused difficulties for the AFL. Due to this reason, some members began to call for a more inclusive union; thus, in 1935, the Committee for Industrial Organizations (CIO) was formed by John L. Lewis. It was formerly as a part of AFL until the latter expelled all members of the CIO. Eventually, the name Committee for Industrial Organizations became Congress of Industrial Organizations. It then immediately attracted thousands of workers to its ranks and eventually got involved in a number of successful strikes during the mid 1930s. One of the CIO’s most successful strikes was achieved during the Rubber Strike of 1936 in Akron, Ohio. Workers of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, B.F. Goodrich, and Firestone formed a union named United Rubber Workers and organized a strike in an attempt to alleviate their working conditions and to protest against a plan created by the company to reduce wages and increase the pace of production. The union developed the concept of the “sit-down” strike. In contrast with the past strikes where union members leave the factory to form picket lines, the sit-down strike allows the members occupy their places within the factory but quit working. This practice discouraged the company owners to hire “scab” laborers to cross the picket lines and continue production; hence forcing the management to listen to the workers’ grievances (Ohio Historical Society, 2008).
In the beginning in the 1950s, the percentage of unionized workers, declined. In 1953, 32.5% of American workers were union members. By 1983, only twenty percent of American workers belonged to a union (The Social Studies Help Center).
Year 1954 marked a very significant event in the history on unions when peasants and workers of Honduras organized and executed the what-we-now call the “great strike” that lasted for more than two months, May to July (Envio Magazine, 1982). On April 10th of that year, waterfront workers in Tela rebuffed to load one of the United Fruit Company’s (UFCO) cargo ships, claiming the overtime pay to which they were legally entitled, aside from the 8-hour day work provision, double pay for overtime, improved health care services for workers, provision of gear to protect workers’ health, education for their children, eradication of the obligation to eat in company-owned refectory, among many others. Hearing about the feat, the workers of the Tela Railroad Company, a UFCO subsidiary, in Puerto Cortés, El Progreso, La Lima and Bataan declared that they, too, were on strike (American Memory Timeline, 2002). By April 30, El Progreso became the focal point of the actions for the reason that all workers in the vicinity were on strike and had organized a local strike committee, which virtually self-governed the entirety of the town. To express their support, countless of other workers joined what develop into a nation-wide pursuit. Joining in on the event were 25,000 Standard Fruit Company workers, tobacco factory workers in San Pedro Sula, women workers of 7 textile companies in the same city, miners of the foreign-owned Rosario Mining Co., thousands of workers in the capital of Tegucigalpa, etc. The strike lasted 69 days, reaching an agreement that met many of the workers’ demands for better pay and good working conditions and opened the avenue to the legalization of union organizations (Global Exchange, 2005).
The ratification of Acts or Laws to regulate the labor-management relations at the present time are basically a product of the New Deal era of the 1930s (Congressional Digest, 1993).
The 1990 Sherman Antitrust Act aimed to protect trade and commerce against unlawful restraints, monopolies, contacts combinations or conspiracies; sustain healthy competition; reduce taxation; provide revenue for the Government; protect companies against each other; safeguard consumers from unfair business practices; and for other purposes. This Act had suppressed formation of organizations that would impede its goals (Legal Information Institute).
The political germ for the Clayton Antirust Act was propagated in the 1912 Presidential Election, when William Howard Taft, the incumbent Republican; Woodrow Wilson, the Democrat challenger; and Theodore Roosevelt, running for his old job on the Progressive Party or “Bull Moose” ticket, held a three-way contest (Ramirez, 1998). All three Presidentiables believed that the Supreme Court had been far too indulgent to large corporations that antitrust laws needed to be fortified. Wilson came victorious of the election and instructed Congress to work on new legislation. This resulted in the enactment of the Clayton Antitrust Act two years later in 1914. This included several major provisions that are protective of organized labor. The Clayton Act had redistributed welfare among different groups in the economy (Ramirez, 1998).
The Railway Labor Act (RLA) was enacted in 1926 to put an end to seemingly endless wails of laborers in the railroads and to avoid strikes which results in the paralysis of transportation; henceforth, leaving so many people stranded and businesses to stop operation. This code required business sectors to bargain collectively, whether they want to or not. It also prohibited discrimination against members of the unions (Congressional Digest, 1993). Initially, this Act only pertained to then America’s leading means of transportation of that time – railroads; basically to diminish strikes and maintain smooth operation; but was amended in 1936 to cover the emerging airline industry involving the mechanics, dispatchers, and pilots (Independent Pilots Association).
Congress amended the Davis-Bacon Act in 1931 obliging the Secretary of Labor to determine the prevailing wages and fringe benefits paid to workers in the construction industry (LiUNA). Compelling federal construction contractors to pay local prevailing wages such as union wages, the birth of the act was in an atmosphere of racism and, more specifically, white union fear of competition from blacks willing to work for free market rewards (Fein, 1993). Davis-Bacon’s prejudiced effects on black construction workers, furthermore, persist. The statute seems clearly unconstitutional under the teaching of the Supreme Court in Hunter vs. Underwood (1985), because racial discrimination was a substantial or motivating factor behind enactment of the law. This is then implemented to all the labor sectors.
The foremost Federal law that protected the rights of labor unions was the Norris-LaGuardia Act which was enacted in 1932 (Congressional Digest, 1993). It prohibited Federal courts from imposing “yellow dog” contracts. These are agreements that forbid workers from joining a union or forcing an alleged union member to discontinue his or her membership. At the outset, the law was recognized as the Anti-injunction Act in view of the fact that its numerous restrictions had the effect of impeding any federal court from issuing an injunction to terminate a labor dispute. In one component of the act, for instance, there instated a provision that an injunction that aimed to prohibit a strike cannot be issued except when the local police are either unwilling or unable to prevent damage of property or violent behavior. It also forbids unions from the injunction of someone from performing his or her duties such as paying dues, becoming a member of a union, not wanting to take part of any labor activities and advising others about their rights (Ewonaitis, 2002).
The National [Industrial] Recovery Act (NRA) was approved in June 16, 1933 and was touted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the most imperative and across-the-board law ever enacted by the American Congress. This Act sought to provide codes of fair competition to all its members and their employers. These codes had the support of law and were not liable from antitrust provisions. That is to uphold recuperation and restructuring of contracts and organizations, persuade collective bargaining for unions, set up a standardized maximum work hours and minimum wages and, moreover, forbid women and child labor in any industry (Congressional Digest, 1993).
Passed in 1935, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) or Wagner Act was indisputably the most essential labor legislation ratified in the 1930s. This is the primary law that governs the relations between unions and employers in the private business sector (Congressional Digest, 1993).
The decree warrants employees’ rights to form an organization for the purpose of collective bargaining, privilege of individuals take part in other protected collaborative activities, restrict labor and management practices of the private sector that might be harmful to the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy (NLRB.org; Union.org). It ruled out employers who practice unfair labor practices among which are the domination or interference with the formation of a labor union, stipulation of any financial or other support to gain favor against unions, threatening in order to prevent union membership, imposing any special conditions of employment which inclined either to encourage or discourage union membership, dismissal or discrimination of an employee for the reason that he had given testimony or filed charges under the Act, and refusal to bargain collectively with unions representing a company’s employees (Congressional Digest, 1993).
On the other hand, the NLRA also established guidelines that the unions must abide by so as not to be accused of unfair labor practice. Some examples of these are barring employees from entering the place of work and performing duties, exhibiting violence against workers, and threatening against any workers (Unions.org).
The Anti-Strikebreaker Law or Byrnes Act, named after Senator James Byrnes, was passed in 1936 and was amended in 1938. Transportation of strikebreakers or, as a matter of fact, any person across the state lines or in interstate commerce who was employed for the purpose of using force of threats against non-violent picketing in a labor dispute or against organizing or bargaining efforts was considered a felony and is punishable by fine or up to two years in prison. The legislation was the result of the over a half century of industrial violence that had been invigorated in part by management’s unrelenting utilization of armed mercenaries to infiltrate, intimidate, threaten, and use violence against laborers to put off or to break labor strikes (Matthies Law Firm).
The Public Contract Act or Walsh-Healey Act, conceded in 1936 and The PCA is enforced by the Employment Standards Administration’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) within the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), compelled contractors who are engaged in the manufacturing or furnishing of materials, supplies, articles, or equipment to the U.S. government or the District of Columbia to compensate its workforce who produce, assemble, handle, or ship goods under contracts which is higher than $10,000, the federal minimum wage for all hours of service and time and one half their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.; banned the employment of convicts and children under 18; and established sanitation and safety standards (Congressional Digest, 1993; US-DoL).
The Fair Labor Standards Act or Wage-Hour Law came in 1938 instituting four main components: minimum wage requirements, overtime requirements, child labor regulations, and equal pay provisions. This is for all workers engaged in covered interstate commerce. It affects employees in the private sector, as well as those who work in Federal, State, and local governments (Matthies Law Firm).
The Labor-Management Relations Act or Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 was the first major modification of the National Labor Relations Act that established measures for averting national emergency strikes, barred supervisory employees from coverage of the NLRA or Wagner Act and banned closed-shop union hiring halls that single out non-union members. The Act approved of suits against unions for breach of their economic contracts and authorized damage suits for economic losses caused by secondary boycotts; institutionalization of a 60-day no-strike and no-lockout notice period for any party in quest of abandoning an existing collective bargaining agreement; obliged unions to submit applications to NLRB and documents with the U.S. Department of Labor; and excluded corporate or union contributions or expenditures with respect to elections to any Federal office (Matthies Law Firm).
The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) or Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959, made major embellishments to the Taft-Hartley Act incorporating the definition of additional unfair labor practices and a veto on organizational or recognized picketing, provisions authorizing State labor relations agencies and courts to assume jurisdiction over labor issues the NLRB beg off to consider, judicially enforced fortification of the union’s freedom of speech and other participatory rights, mandatory secret-ballot election of officers, and civil and criminal practices against the inappropriate use of union funds. This act was originally exclusive to private-sector unions until Congress extended the legislation to include public employee unions in 1978 (Frazzi, 2008).
Reasons Why Workers of Join Unions
In general, according to NLRA, they aim to protect themselves from unfair treatment, arbitrary or even malicious behavior of company management. Specific grounds why employees want to join unions are economic security, healthy working conditions and control over own work, respect, poor grievance and communication systems, job insecurity and incoherent policy enforcement (Educational Institute, 2001).
There are numerous advantages enjoyed by union members. Some of the foremost advantages would be the fact that they are usually compensated better as compared to anyone in the occupational group; have better health care and pensions for their families aside from themselves; are protected by the union especially those charged with discipline or dismissal; get better working conditions as a result of the negotiation; is assured recognition when tenured; guaranteed with unvarying company policies for the term of the contract, secured training or apprenticeship programs that train beginning workers and update the skills of experienced workers (Temple University; Labor Union Resources).
Being a unionized also has setbacks such as the legal replacement of striking workers with permanent replacement workers –striking workers will only be recalled if a job for which they are qualified becomes vacant; union is the sole bargaining agent for all the members – individual agreements between the employer and an employee are not allowed; members are required to pay union dues which sometimes amount to hundreds of dollars a year; unions have their own rules and regulations as to the discipline of its members – members who engage in activities prohibited by the union can be fined thus helping employers, in a way, to create a more stable and productive workforce (Temple University; Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 1999)
With the NLRA, employers can carry out a non-union strategy. McDonald’s and IBM are examples of organizations that have explicitly drawn out the matter of labor relations in this way while others have pursue more covert path toward union avoidance (Singh, 2001).
One of the most commonly used devices is the avoidance of the representation vote wherein which the employer has equal rights to the union with respect to informing employees of the disadvantages of a union (Chalykoff & Capelli, 1986). Some workers may be distracted from a union with such a message. Though the NLRA requires that union organizers should gather signatures of at least 65% – 70% of the total population of the company, being able to get 30%, the organizer can already submit certifications in order for the union to be organized. With this in mind, the employer can delay the certification process by means of aiming for employees to become malcontent with the union and as such abort the organizing drive. This can be done by means of advising the employees about the disadvantages of joining a union such as mandatory payment of monthly dues, attending meeting, etc. (NLRB, 1997).
There are many legal firms that capitalized on the demand union-avoidance strategy. Diverse chapters of the Society of Human Resource Management have subsidised prominent union-avoidance lawyers for member employers advantage (Jacoby, 1999).
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ISSUES IN BARGAINING
Despite the fact that by law, companies cannot fire any one that participates in union activities, employment security issues is still great challenge in collective bargaining; because it is all constituted in the law that companies can hire temporary employees to take the place of their employees while the negotiation is ongoing (OSEA). If worse comes to worst, the negotiation might fail and the company might choose to “lock out” or even definitely close down leaving the all the employees jobless.
Threats and other anomalies will always be present no matter how many provisions are strictly implemented by law. Union members and company representatives will still have to be burdened with fear in one way or another whether it is before, during or after the negotiation (OSEA).
There are specific laws governing the collective bargaining, or the union as a whole. In spite of all the favors and considerations these laws give to union members involved in the negotiation, its members would still have to see to it that all civil service law and everything stipulated in the agreement be followed religiously; otherwise, the union and all its members will have to face legal charges in the form of breech of contract (Washburne & Jahr, 2007).
With its roots in the industrial industry, the mass production sector of the economy, collective bargaining operates under a “factory model” of bargaining or the “one size fits all” system (Washburne & Jahr, 2007). In this type of bargaining, unions focus on fastening their members with contracts that has standardized benefits, working conditions and salaries. The factory model, unfortunately, does not cater for individual grievances for the reason that it prioritizes group needs over the needs and interests of a particular individual. In fact, the standard terms of a collective bargaining agreement seldom, if not never, properly address an individual worker’s professional needs. A good example to this is the individual salary rate. As previously noted, it is forbidden to consider individual workers’ salaries and terms of employment apart from what the union negotiates. Such uniform treatment results in a loss of individual freedom, motivation and productivity as the teachers divert their creative energy away from the classroom and toward union-related activities. Many quality workers simply choose to leave their profession in favor of finding greater freedom to exercise their skills and abilities elsewhere (Washburne & Jahr, 2007).
For the pubic sectors, privatization is one of the possible challenges that union members might be come across with. When the labor negotiation fails to arrive at an agreement due to certain circumstances, there is a great possibility that the public office that they work for would be sold to a private individual or company; consequently, new policies would be presented to all the employees. At this juncture, the union would have to study the company policies all over again; worse, it might even face great disruption and even disband (OSEA).
Issues for the Organization
For the duration of recent years, hospitals have been confronted with many economic challenges that pushed to the reduction of expenses to counter to declining revenues. Limitations in reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid have been inexorable and the proliferation of managed care and contractual discounts has radically reduced payments in most major markets. On account of to these pressures, majority of hospitals have cut back operations and staffing to the point where any personnel vacancies are convoluted. The condition is every so often critical. Consequently, executive managements of hospitals at present sense that scarcity of competent personnel are among their principal concerns (Shoemaker & Howell, 2004).
Employees organize unions for varying reasons. This paper expounds the additional rights employees obtain after unionization, the underlying principles of unions, supremacy of unions over employers, how unions are formed, the governing body that administers these organizations, what collective bargaining is, the collective bargaining agreement and how to avoid union organizing.
Rights of Union Members
The NLRA deems to protect workers who are union members or participate in its activities (Labor Union Resources). With this, employees have the freedom to organize, promote and join a labor union of their designation without apprehension, protection from unfair labor practices, and ability to voice out their grievances and negotiate with the employers through collective bargaining (DOL).
Union members would enjoy the rights to for the protection of their dignity, rights and respect; for the negotiation of wages and other compensation; for the clarification and implementation of the basis of increases; for the assertion of impartiality in discipline and dismissal; for the achievement of humane working conditions; and for the security of seniority rights are the specific grounds of unionizing (DOL).
Values and Principles of Labor Unions
According to the Labor Awareness Program of The Institute of Labor Studies, members of labor unions swore to serve as a “brothers’ keeper” to each other which means that each and every one of them is responsible for the safety of other members. They believe that people have power when they unite, thus, calls for organized movements. They trust that quality and fair treatment can be achieved through a due process; with this in mind, unions initiated the “sit down” strike which is a peaceful talk between the management and the union. Gaining respect, a living wage opportunity for all to jobs and advancement are just some of the primary reasons that members south for that is why they joined unions in the first place. Unions practices a “no discrimination — equal treatment” scheme within the organization. They fight for everyone’s right whatever gender, religion or race the worker belongs to. Union members believe that workers rights are human rights, henceforth, should be protected and exercised, that is, through participation in union activities. Along with this right, comes the right to leisure and family life which they also wish to protect (Tubach, 2001).
Powers of Unions
Primarily, the union’s power originates from the workers’ collective ability to shut the entire operation of a company down in case they withhold their service as a group from the employer. Other collective strength include: collective bargaining, rallying, participating in political campaigns and elections, and lobbying for laws that benefit all workers. Secondarily, a collective bargaining agreement is a binding contract between management and union, and is legally bonded. A civil court hearing enforces it with a neutral third party called “binding arbitration.” Thirdly, unions derive their power from past successes (their history) in meeting workers’ needs (Tubach, 2001).
Local and International Unions
Like large business corporations, a large union has a head quarter at one point of the globe while keep smaller offices in different locations. The local unions are the bottom of the the pyramid, yet serves the most frequently – establishing bargaining contracts; providing members with mediation; oversee day to day activities and providing union members across the nation with a solid and real institution in which to do business (Union.org).
Contrary to the local unions, the international unions are at the top of the pyramid. They are heavily involved in legislation. They are the ones that lobby Congress for any modification in the labor and employment law. They also provide assistance to local unions as well as coordinate national efforts to organize (Union.org).
Under both the federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and Michigan’s Public Employment Relations Act (PERA), when employees of a certain company want to unionize, union organizers have to gather the signatures of 65-75% of the employees therein. This is when a bargaining unit is formed. It is possible to form this unit with as few as 30% of the employees (Union.org). However, it’s best to wait for a solid majority, as the company can seek to punish signed members. The employees will have to sign cards which are to be submitted to The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) – a government agency that oversees union/management relations and implements the NLRA or Wagner Act. The bargaining unit is finalized either by the NLRB or by agreement between the company and union. If the organizers succeed, they can request that the appropriate government agency hold a “certification election.”
At the election, a secret balloting will occur, either for or against unionization. If majority of the employee votes “yes” from a simple majority, that is, more than 50 percent of the workers who cast a ballot, the union becomes “certified” as the exclusive representative of all the workers in the workplace, or “bargaining unit” (Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 1999). Tensions mount high at this critical time as both the company and union supporters aggressively engage in a war of the workers (Union.org).
Collective bargaining is a formal procedure that entails negotiation, consultation and the exchange of information, as well as ideals, between the management representative and the union representative. The end goal being an agreement that should be mutually or communally acceptable to all parties. It is by and large a bipartite process which means exclusively involving only two parties. On the other hand, in other countries, the State plays a imperative task in putting forward collective bargaining by instituting pertinent national legislation (ILO).
The ILO Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention (No. 98), 1949 describes collective bargaining as the voluntary or deliberate formal concession between company or its chosen representatives and the union’s representatives, with a view to the regulation of terms and conditions of employment by collective agreements (ILO).
The essential features of collective bargaining cannot be reflected in a single definition or description of the process (Silva, 1996). It differs from collective agreements. While collective bargaining refers to the process or means of negotiation, and collective agreements refers to the end result of bargaining. Moreover, collective bargaining may not always lead to a collective agreement. It is a measure undertaken by trade unions to improve the terms and conditions of employment of their members. It seeks to restore the disproportionate bargaining position between employer and employee. Although it leads to an agreement, collective bargaining modifies rather than replaces the individual contract of employment. The procedure is bipartite, but in some developing countries the State pro tem a role in the form of a liaison where disputes occur or where collective bargaining impinges on government policy (Silva, 1996).
There are of three categories of potential topics discussed during a collective bargaining (Union.org). The first is called the mandatory topics. These are subjects that should be discussed if one of the parties calls for it; for instance, wages and benefits. The second is the permissive topics. These are issues that either the union or employer may ask to discuss; however, the other party is not compelled to discuss. Examples of these include whether the company will use the union’s label on its products. Lastly, there are illegal (also called “prohibited”) topics. Literally specking, these are topics that neither party may bring up, such as proposals to racial discrimination.
Procedures Undertaken in a Collective Bargaining
After the establishment of a union in a workplace, negotiations begin between the union representatives and the employer/representatives regarding a new labor contract. This contract shall govern the working relationship between the employer and all the workers in the bargaining unit. This process is known as “collective bargaining” (Union.org; Cornell University)
Collective bargaining is parallel under both the NLRA and PERA; though the first is applicable only to private-sector employees, the latter applies to most Michigan public-sector employees, including public school teachers. Many legal and technical considerations are taken into account. These are concluded by the explicit circumstances of each employment situation. The union, through the Union representatives, is the sole employee representative in the collective bargaining. Individual workers are not permitted from negotiating their own work arrangements with the employer. Each worker is required to abide by the terms of the approved contract. The employer, on the other hand, is mandated by law to negotiate with the union over various terms and conditions of employment. The issues would vary from wage and benefit to policies and procedures that preside over the production processes of the company (Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 1999).
The employer and union discuss the issues at hand, present evidences to show the reasonableness of their demands, and try to achieve concessions. Neither party is forced to agree to any provision. If the parties cannot resolve one or more issues, they have reached what is called “impasse.” At this juncture, the union has the right to call on a strike, or the employer may “lock out” the union workers. In some circumstances, the employer may bring in replacement workers to continue operations (Labor Working Group).
Advantages of Collective Bargaining
According to Silva (1996), one of the benefits of the collective bargaining is the process of the settlement through dialogue and consensus rather than through conflicts and confrontations. Unlike arbitration where issues are resolved based on a third party decision, collective bargaining results are usually the choice or compromise of the parties themselves. The settlements are institutionalized through a dialogue. An example of this is a collective agreement may present methods by which disagreements between the parties will be sorted out. In this case, the parties should know beforehand that if they are in disagreement, there is an agreed method by which such disagreement may be resolved.
During the discussion, participation of both parties in deciding what measures to be taken to resolve an issue is an essential requirement. This form of participation involves a contribution of rule-making power between employers and unions in areas which in earlier times were regarded as management prerogatives such as relocation, promotion, redundancy, discipline, modernizations and production norms.
Renounced or limited settlement of disputes through trade union action are types of agreements that produce the outcome of warranted industrial peace for the duration of the agreements, either generally or more usually on matters covered by the agreement.
An essential feature in the perception of social partnership which may be described as a joint venture between organized employer institutions and organized labor institutions is premeditated to uphold non-confrontational procedures in the resolution of disputes which may arise between employers and employees (Labor Working Group).
Valuable by-products relevant to the relationship between the two parties, like a long course of successful and bona fide transactions, can eventually lead to the generation of trust. It partakes towards mutual understanding by instituting a continuing relationship. The process, once the relationship of trust and understanding has been established, creates an attitude of attacking problems together rather than each other (Labor Working Group).
In societies where there is a multiplicity of unions and shifting union loyalties, collective bargaining and consequent settlements tend to stabilize union membership. Where there is a collective agreement employees are less likely to change union affiliations. This is of value also to employers who are faced with constant changes in union membership and consequent inter-union rivalries resulting in more disputes in the workplace than otherwise.
The effect of improving industrial relations is the improvement that can be at different levels. The continuous negotiations improve relations at the workplace level between workers and the union on the one hand and the employer on the other.
Collective Bargaining Agreement
After the tedious bargaining between the employer and the union, an agreement would be reached. When one of the following two courses may be adopted either they start out the agreement reached in a letter to the union and prepare a draft agreement otherwise, provide the union with a draft agreement (Silva, 1996).
This is a better course of action as it limits the room for further negotiations between the time the agreement is reached and the draft agreement is approved. Prior to the signing of the agreement, the accurate explanation of clauses should be agreed upon. The sealing of the contract or agreement does not certify its successful implementation unless managers and supervisors are acquainted with the agreement through the most appropriate means – a combination of written and oral communication is often useful (Smith, et al, 2001).
Union Avoidance: Welfare Capitalism
Employers practicing a union-avoidance strategy only intend to maintain control and to achieve it without exploiting workers (Arat, 2008). This viewpoint is based on the welfare capitalism which is said to have originated in a turn-of-the-century exertion by American employers to anticipate the development of mass labor movement and a regulatory social welfare state (Jacoby, 1997). The momentum of this was reduced with the Great Depression and the New Deal. Unions benefited from unparalleled intensification and victory as a result of the NLRA.
Today, unions are on the decline and employers occupy a powerful position in public opinion. The union sector in the US today is much smaller than the non-union sector with only 12% of American workers belong to a union. The 88% of workers made unilaterally instituted terms and conditions of employment with their employers (Singh, 2001).
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EXPLORING THE FUTURE
The labor movement has been drastically declining over the years despite the necessity of due to six major challenges (Aronowitz, 2005). Globalization and technological change has a totally big impact on our economic situation as the former gave birth to competitiveness in terms of production while the latter produced and keep on producing so many new gadgets that catches the attention and time of so many people. The legal attacks against worker rights gave real fright among the new bred of workers. Labor and the cold war, as we can all recall diminishes every single thing there is around. National politics and restrictions on organizing are rampant nowadays as many businessmen engaged themselves in politics while almost all politicians are into business.
One activity unions is to take is to invite their members and the public in an extremely evident debate about what the future looks like without unions and collective bargaining: no pensions, limited health care, stagnant or declining wages, a race to the bottom where only the strong survive (Sleigh, 2006). Also, moving further than the configuration of collective bargaining to the establishment of assets through labor and employment relations, and the union role in that process, turning point on the victorious claim of capital in various forms: monetary, human and social (Harrison, 2001).
Conducting and/or being part of any negotiation process, much more in a labor negotiation, require unparalleled preparation. It calls for enormous amount of research and data gathering.
This paper is about the negotiations process. It talks about the importance of preparation, the underlying mechanics and some of the techniques in negotiation. When evaluating the negotiations process, the theoretical approach will be diverse, but the prominence will be on behavioral theory. Despite the fact that a variety of economic and theories have been and are used to evaluate collective bargaining, the usefulness of these theories is likely to have undermined where economic issues are not paramount (Human Rights Watch 2007).
Behavioral theories conversely give the impression to best explain the dynamics of Federal sector collective bargaining. The behavioral approach focuses on the motivation of the individual in the process. Lastly, the behavioral model is more accustomed with the collaborative or “win–win” philosophy of collective bargaining, which offers momentous potential for improving bargaining effectiveness.
The examination of the collective bargaining process subjectively divides that entire procedure into five most important areas: envisioning the philosophy, setting of objectives, organization or preparation for the negotiation, deciding on the management team and their supposed roles during the negotiation and, then, the tactics.
As discussed previously, collective bargaining is a formal procedure that entails negotiation, consultation and the exchange of information, as well as ideals, between the management representative and the union representative. The foregoing discussion presents the stages and procedures undertaken in preparation of the negotiation.
Envision Negotiation Philosophy
Examining the philosophical view of negotiations and assuring whether that view is consistent with successful bargaining is a very crucial step (The Social Studies Help Center, 2006). The negotiation can either be a “Win—Lose” Negotiation or “Win—Win” Negotiations.
“Win—Lose” Negotiation is when the negotiations are seemingly a zero sum game in which one party must win and the other must lose, you have plenty of company. This is a usual and valid perception of the process. However, that is not always the case, in fact in most situations; it definitely shouldn’t be that way (Fischer & Uy, 1983).
“Win—Win” Negotiations, on the contrary, as viewed by a number of experts in the field of negotiations, this kind of negotiation stresses cooperation and collaboration which keys to successful negotiations (Fischer & Uy, 1983). Typically, the character of this type of negotiations is molded by the nature of the rapport or mutuality in the relationship. It should have full approval of collective bargaining by management; mutual trust, respect and confidence between the parties; rejection to engage in legalistic approaches; focused on concrete problems rather than abstract issues; and, widespread union/management consultation and highly developed problem sharing.
Set Negotiations Objectives
Once a collective bargaining philosophy had been adopted, the second component of a negotiations strategy is the recognition of negotiations objectives (Aronowitz, 2005). A good contract is just as desirable to the agency as it is to the union for it will embody the rules of the relationship between the parties. By law, negotiable conditions of employment may not change except through the negotiations process.
Preparation should also include gathering internal company data that is relevant to the issues to be discussed such as company policies on benefits, work hours, discipline, etc; labor practices exercised by other company in the same industry or region; and pertinent national legislation related to issues to be discussed (ILO).
Organize a Team for the Negotiation
This bargaining strategy area involves a good deal more than fielding a team to send to the bargaining table (Cooper & Patmore, 2008). The Collective Bargaining Committee acts as the Project Manager; thus, it should have direct access and open communication with the commander, have representatives from the Comptroller or Financial Management Office to assess the costs and financial planning implications of contract provisions, have an attorney with training and expertise in labor relations, have representatives from the Civilian Personnel Office to advise on personnel rules and regulations, include a representative group of line managers from organizations to be bound by the contract, include some representation of first line supervisors and have sufficient clerical support to prepare minutes or type contract provisions.
It should be composed of six representatives on both sides of the negotiating table not excluding the appointed chief negotiators for management and for workers (ILO). As much as possible, try to have representative for all types or levels of workers or management represented as well as all the different job categories for purpose of good representation.
The Management Negotiating Team
Identifying the structure and function of the members of the negotiating team is a vital part in the negotiation process. There should be an assigned person whose sole task is jotting down notes or minutes. The minutes should be prepared as soon as possible after each negotiation assembly and should be signed by each member of the team; in such a way, the team authenticates the minutes by identifying the signature and would be able to recall any given negotiation session months or years later.
The highest-level staff member in both parties should not be the chief negotiator. The lower level management or supervisors and ordinary staff will have the most credibility.
When the realistic objectives is set, efficiently prepared and well planned, it still remains that probability to win a good contract at the bargaining table needs more of an art than a science (Aronowitz, 2005). It is essential to learn some tactics what veteran negotiators undergone to gain successful bargaining.
To be skilled negotiators is to be good communicators. There are two aspects of communications that concern the bargaining process – the Communicating Attitudes and Emotions and the Communications Styles.
In collective bargaining, we always converse about our attitude toward the other party when we deal with them, which is one of the most significant dynamics at the bargaining table. Errors in communication change the flow of the entire collective bargaining relationship. Silence on a particular subject, for instance, can correspond with absolute transparency of distrust toward the collective bargaining process and complete disregard for the union team. Intentional or not, that leads to not arriving at an agreement at all. It is very helpful to establish more constructive relationships by means of having an awareness of how the way of communicating these counterproductive messages (Aronowitz, 2005).
Communications style is a medium of bringing forth our attitude to the other party. Aronowitz (2005) mentioned some attitudes that are bridged this way. One attitude is placating or non-assertive. This is when there are reservations to disagree or offend. It is evident when the person has low of self esteem. Blaming or aggressive attitude is when one seeks to threaten and intimidate. This is actually an expected style of unions. Computing or intellectual attitude expresses superficial calmness usually characterized by maintaining distance and keeping an appearance of superiority. Levelling or assertive attitude is a straightforward behavior without disrespect of the rights of the other party. The last attitude to be considered is distracting or manipulative, evading issues with importance and manipulating people’s feelings.
Management negotiators habitually utilize the middle three styles, predominantly the computing/intellectual style, at the table (Aronowitz, 2005). These styles are by and large depicted by specified speech patterns and body language.
Loaded expressions phrases or statements that carry messages not found in the literal words used. These expressions can be used to commune negative attitudes and emotions; thus should be used only with great care (Human Rights Watch, 2007).
Gerard Nierenberg calls this “meta–talk”, meaning beyond that which is spoken, for instance, one may say, “It may interest you to know…” which in reality means, “You ought to be interested….”; or, “You didn’t know?” which actually means, “You should know, dummy.”; “By the way…” a phrase that ridicules what follows; “In my humble opinion…” means, “I’m an expert, you’re not.”; “As you know…” is followed by an unspoken statement saying, “You’re dumb if you don’t.”; and, “What do you really think?” is a kind paraphrasing of “You’re not telling the truth.”
Loaded expressions more often than not go together with body language suitable to the message they contain (Human Rights Watch, 2007). Other body language, with or without loaded expressions, can point toward your lack of receptivity to argument, your hostility, etc. Obviously, it’s important to be aware of our body language. We may otherwise be sending signals we don’t want to send. In other words, seek first whether these things will contribute to accomplishing our objectives or hinder us. Moreover, at the negotiating table, the thoughts and emotions we impart should be those, and only those, we have deliberately decided to communicate.
The subsequent step subsequent to assessing the attitudes and emotions we wanted to send across to the other party is to watch at the manner we communicate ideas. However, there are various techniques that expert negotiators exercise at the table (Souley, 2000). These are questioning, educating and summarizing.
One of the most effective and most underutilized communications techniques in collective bargaining is questioning (Human Rights Watch, 2007). Asking the right questions at the right time can win imperative gains during a negotiation. One can ask question when communicating desires to achieve a reasonable and workable contract; obtaining the information required to appraise the union’s proposal; questioning in order to stimulate thought – usually begins with something like “Have you considered . . .?” or “What do you think would happen if . . .?” ; bringing about a result or conclusion – for instance, “Are you willing to modify your proposal that way” or “Can we go ahead and initial off on this, then?”
When union proposals hardly make sense due to the reason that union representatives cannot understand the complexities of the management problems expressed therein, the bargaining is useless (Souley, 2000). Simplicity and being straightforward in the presentations will be very helpful. Briefing the union on exceptional issues or problems is a very effective technique in many circumstances. Also, the use of an expert to speak to the union can be useful; this have a tendency to authenticate and legitimize your position.
In the course of the negotiations process, keeping track of where one’s stand is categorically essential (Human Rights Watch, 2007). Sporadically summarizing the proceedings, particularly agreements reached and disputes is one technique that would help. The management negotiator should try to take the lead here; doing so gives us an edge in controlling the direction of negotiations.
In addition to those above-mentioned tactics, there are some other bargaining tactics which should be discussed among the hundreds that could be catalogued (The Institute of Labor Studies, 2004). These include establishing position, trial balloons, packaging, staging and objective criteria.
Establishing position can be achieved by asking the right questions. A universal mistake of inexperienced negotiators is retorting prematurely before the other party could supply a rationale (Labor Relations Bulletin No. 113, appendix C.)
Trial balloons are basically a technique of finding out the way the union would respond to a management proposal or counter proposal. Through this, the negotiating party would be able to find out whether they have the basis for a swap or conciliation without committing themselves to a any course of action (Human Rights Watch, 2007).
Packaging is the manner proposals and counter proposals are grouped in the course of negotiations. More often, there are values in linking a specific management proposal to union demands in associated areas where concessions are achievable. Packaging of proposals depends on certain factors, among which are personalities, the relative importance of issues, and timing (Souley, 2000).
Staging refers to the middle ground between untrained recognition and rejection of a proposal. There is always a tendency to reject their proposals. Negotiating a trial execution, possibly in a limited part of the activity is a wise technique. If used appropriately, this approach has a number of advantages such as expressing willingness to tackle a workable agreement, opening to discovery if the proposal will really work and demonstrating to the union the impossible workability of a flawed proposal (Human Rights Watch, 2007).
To change the focus of negotiations toward the collaborative model, objective criteria is one extremely useful tactic to be used. Fisher and Ury, in Getting To Yes, argue this approach as an imperative constituent of what they call “principled negotiations.” The principle is to focus attention away from fixed positions and onto what is fair or reasonable.
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THE FUTURE OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT
Labor concerns had been and still continue to continue being a key factor in the nation’s economy. Bargaining for higher wage and better working conditions for workers have become progressively more intricate as issues such as on-the-job drug testing, workplace hostility, health coverage, pay for overtime, stress, affirmative action and others have been added to the bargaining mix (Harrison, 2001).
About a decade ago, the Department of Labor commissioned a delve into the trends that would mold and manipulate the labor force of the future wherein among the trends it acknowledged were the conversion to a worldwide economy, the prevalent use of technology, and diversity in the workforce (Harrison, 2001).
The 21st century workforce describes change as a norm where people transfer jobs an average of nine times during their career which was proven in 2002 alone when there were 50 million job separations and 50 million new hires – over one-third of the entire workforce involving workers who voluntarily resigned from their jobs to seek better opportunities.
But more of the same would have to include changing the way unions are established. According to Cornell University researcher Kate Bronfenbrenner, it was found out that unions are more likely to win when they employ comprehensive, strategically targeted campaigns, assign adequate staff, use union member volunteer organizers and apply creative pressure from outside the workplace (Moberg, 2004). Ultimately, the chief answer is organizing committees of devoted workers who would act like a union during organizing campaigns and engage in tactics that escalate the pressure on employers as the drives progress. Only a minority of organizing campaigns use such tactics effectively, she says.
Decline of Labor Unions
Coming from a tower-high mark of 35% in the 1950s to the miserable 12 % that it is at present, national union membership has clearly taken a down drop (Maracay, 2008). There are numerous reasons enveloping this fact, not any of it is due to the Taft-Hartley Act (1947), which, with its wide-ranging restrictions on union activities, was confirmed to be a legitimate impediment to the labor movement.
The comparative influence of unions and the labor movement has declined in an almost linear fashion in the past four decades although there is a number of confirmations that a “bottoming out” may possibly have commence in the past two or three years (Jedel, 1998). There are multiple reasons. These are the global economy compel business organizations to function on a international scale, employment security is nowadays strongly tied to the economic strength of the company and not to collective bargaining power, unions are considered ineffective to prevent downsizing and the modern HR systems and practices can deal reasonably with labor concerns (Jedel, 1998).
On a more specific discussion, Law (2004) talked about how the labor market has evolved and, therefore, it is nothing like it was two centuries ago when majority of the population is employed in agriculture. During the second half of the 20th century, white collar jobs declined dramatically as the labor market transitioned to a booming service sector that continues to grow.
In the 21st century workforce, change is inevitable; as a matter of fact, in 2002 alone, there were 50 million job separations and 50 million new hires which is over one-third of the entire labor force, and even in a demanding economy, the majority of these job separations involved workers voluntarily resigned from their jobs to seek better opportunities (Law, 2004).
One strong reason for the decline of unions is the thinning-out of the country’s manufacturing industry and, with it, a decline in those industry jobs which, historically, had been strongly organized. These are mainly composed of the automobile, steel, paper, and heavy equipment industries. Currently, even the automotive industry that was represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW), one of the most successful and innovative unions in American history, took enormous beating during the seventies and eighties, losing hundreds of thousands of members (Law, 2004).
Americans are in spite of everything purchasing cars and trucks at a quick pace, except it no longer even cataloged as news that foreign automotive markets have decimated U.S. sales. That is now a ‘given’. And those Japanese auto companies that have set up shop in the U.S. made certain to situate their plants in right-to-work states in the Deep South, areas hostile to organized labor (US Dept of State).
If we deduct all the non-manufacturing and service jobs like the nurses, civil servants, police and firemen, teachers, etc., there are scarcely 6% of union workers engaged in the manufacture of goods. When you lose your foundation you cannot expect to preserve your membership. The worst thing is – unless something earth-shattering and unpredicted occurs, it’s implausible that we’re ever going to get these industries back to anything forthcoming their previous numbers. That era, along with the quality jobs and UAW glory that went with it, is over (US Dept of State).
Government has assumed custody of key union provisions. Laws have been approved by the state and federal governments to deal with such issues as overtime pay to hours of work, to guaranteed days off and employees’ rights and standards. For instance, where merging with a union was once the only way to get premium pay for overtime or “penalty pay” for showing up and being sent home when there was no work; those goodies are now mandated by state and federal statutes (Maracay, 2008).
Safety is an extra paradigm. It once a requisite to focus on a specific language in a union contract to insure that a workplace was safe and secure, the passage, in 1970, of the Occupation Health and Safety Act (OSHA), every employer in the country was held responsible to a federal safety code (Maracay, 2008).
Originally, many companies managed to keep unions out by providing their employees with comparable wages and benefits. Despite the fact that union wages are still significantly across the board, compared to non-union wages, majority of the companies are able to avoid unions by providing compensation and benefits like vacations, pensions and health insurance that compare satisfactorily to those of union shops, thus obviating the need for organizing. What offends the most in cases like these are the people (“free riders”) being paid these comparable wages and benefits think they are making it on their own, without having to rely on a union. In truth, without the subsistence of unions, there is no telling how low base wages for unskilled blue-collar work would fall, with nothing to prop them up except the federal minimum wage (Maracay, 2008).
We have also been spectators to the decline in our sense of community as can be distinguished in the fact that a lesser number of people are willing to march in Labor Day parades, or register in social clubs or civic organizations, or attend community events (Maracay, 2008).
There was an anecdote told about John D. Rockefeller which mirrors this transformation in cultural mind-set. It took place during the Depression. A assembly of unfortunate people assembled outside the entrance of Rockefeller’s mansion, and started hammering the covers of the metal trash cans and shouting insults, creating a terrible racket. The police were sent for. But since the police were compassionate to the protester, they put off for more than a few minutes, watching the demonstration with concentration, prior to breaking up the demonstration. Their inherent sympathies lay with the protesters. At present, that episode would play out in a different way. Furthermore, poor people do not have right of entry to a well-heeled industrialist’s residence because he would be off the beaten path inside a gated estate, with his own private security force patrolling the place, it is not likely the city police would react compassionately. To a certain extent, they would behave toward the demonstrators like outlaws and trespassers and eventually drive them away otherwise they might possibly arrest them. They would be expected to be treated with contempt for the mere reason that working people do not have the core respect they once had (Maracay, 2008).
Up until now, most union organizing drives still encounter intense employer opposition from management who are still very much firm on their believe in the benefits of having an union-free organization.
The five most common schemes employers practice to avoid unions are hiring anti-union consultants, forcing attendance at anti-union meetings, threatening to close plants, firings of pro-union workers, replacement workers and union monthly dues.
Impact of Change
Change, to some, is a very troublesome word but the truth is that, for the most part, the impact of the changes that is molding our 21st century laborforce is nothing but positive. If truth be told, during the 2000-2001 recession, real wages climb, probably buoyed by record-high productivity. Still from the discussion made by Law (2004), the following are concrete evidences – the manufacturing itself is developing and with the use of applied technologies it maximizes productivity, quality, and competitiveness; and the majority of the uprooting jobs are engaged in services that require a high degree of training, good pay and that offer opportunities for long-term advancement.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), created in 1955 by the merger of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations, is a voluntary coalition of sixty labor unions, both national and international. The AFL-CIO and associate unions are devoted to four interconnecting goals critical to achieving that mission – the reinforcement working families by enabling more workers to bond together in unions, the construction a powerful political voice for working families, the provision a new voice for workers in the global economy, and the creation of a more effective voice for working families in our communities.
At present, even labor leaders, including AFL-CIO President John Sweeney downright agree that increasing the numbers of member of labor unions will oblige unions to tender more resources to organizing. Albeit, the same leaders also consent that increasing membership alone is definitely not enough to reawaken unions as the core issue is actually how to organize and consequently increase the power of workers (Moberg, 2004).
The same with other union organizations, the AFL-CIO has a very definable set of goals. As indicated in website of The Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, the mission of the AFL-CIO are to improve the lives of working families by building and changing the American labor movement, assemble a broad movement of American workers by organizing workers into unions, build a strong political voice for workers in our nation by empowering state federations, modify our unions to offer a new voice to workers in a shifting economy, and to change labor movement by creating a new voice for workers in our communities and create vibrant community labor councils that reach out to workers at the local level
Communications Workers of America & AFL-CIO leadership
According to Communications Workers of America (2005), which is playing a prominent role as the AFL-CIO undertakes a wide open self-examination and debate over strategies to revitalize the labor movement and reverse the steady decline of union membership as a proportion of the workforce; new strategies are being considered by the organization in support and to further heighten labor union organizing. These would include strengthening worker organizing and bargaining rights through passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, building a larger grassroots base of workplace stewards and mobilizers and bolstering the efficiency of central labor councils for action at the community level.
Other highlights include summoning workers for a movement-wide strike insurance fund, establishing global union alliances, promoting the benefits of joint union bargaining and organizing efforts, encouraging voluntary union mergers and sharpening focus by the AFL-CIO on bargaining support, politics and legislation.
Strategic Programs for AFL-CIO
The following are series of strategic programs that AFL-CIO in order to meet its challenges taken from the website of the US Department of Labor.
First of all is the development of worker education programs to support organizing efforts wherein countless employees no longer distinguish that the problems they encounter at work are actually work-related problems. The AFL-CIO is establishing an education program to aid workers identify that the problems at work are, indeed, work-related. This agenda also aims to educate workers that collective, rather than individual, action is often necessary for unravel these sorts of problems; and that unions can serve as effective vehicles for such action.
Another is directly sustaining vastly focused organizing campaigns with the potential for success. The Center for Strategic Research of AFL-CIO’s is directing entire sectors of the economy for organizing at a speed and level never attempted previously — a strategy that requires a double attention. First of all, unions must to succeed in organizing crusades that matter for assisting unions reconstruct supremacy in their customary jurisdictions. Secondly, unions must be repositioned to organize in places where the economy is emergent.
The third part is paving the high road toward corporate responsibility – paving the high road entails being familiar with businesses and aggressive strategies that centers on product quality, promote continuous innovation, stress customer service, and meet price competition through increases in productivity (Communications Workers of America, 2005). Simultaneously, the labor movement should work to obstruct the low road — compelling companies that persist on remaining competitive by deteriorating unions, disheartenment job security, and slashing wages and benefits.
Organizing pension funds to capitulate high long-term returns to retirees by supporting high-road corporate aggressive strategies would come fourth on the list. The AFL-CIO’s Office of Investment is focusing its efforts on how capital markets can more effectively meet the needs of working families. The Center for Working Capital is an independent non-profit organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO that will press for a greater voice for workers in global capital markets.
Last but definitely not the least would be fostering training for local economic development. The AFL-CIO-affiliated non-profit Working for America Institute concentrates on a conventional union function that is, training — with a modernized methodology that incorporate the modification of work organization, industrial modernization, and technological revolution in the context of regional economic development.
The reality is that the decline in union density has not yet been reversed, regardless of these innovations. Additional approach will be desirable to appeal to a distinctive cross-section of the labor force. Accomplishing such reversal still constitutes an open debate within the labor movement itself and among those who believe in its significance to the general public.
Labor Unions and Information Technology Stage
Unlike the early unions, maintenance of organizational offices, safe keeping of numerous contracts, meeting minutes, blueprints and other various documents, venues of union affairs and other activities and information dissemination are no longer a burden to the members, especially to the officers.
Information technology provides huge advantages such as file administration. Due to the tremendous innovations happening around us, administering unions’ member benefits can be an intimidating and challenging process. Now files can be kept electronically; thus, not only saves space but also keep it safe and accessible (Shostak, 2001).
Another advantage is what is does to communications. Emails, chat rooms and online conference calls are absolutely beneficial to union organizers and officers. Sending out invitations and meetings can now be carried out even without a venue planned. Furthermore, a lot of unions and government agencies involved with labor management already have their own websites, making their profiles and services accessible online (Bernard, n.d.).
The latest and least popular as of the moment is the Software Systems. Ironically, software programs are now being made to facilitate union activities (Shostak, 2001). It provides new and faster ways to track and update profiles of a union member, monitor the administration of various funds, increase office staff productivity, and provide superior service to your members. This system is called labor union management software.
Bernard, Elaine (n.d.). Why unions matter. Retrieved August 4, 2008 from website:
Communications Workers of America (2005). Toward a stronger union movement. Retrieved August 4, 2008 from website: http://www.cwa-union.org/news/cwa-news/page.jsp?
Communications Workers of America (2005). AFL-CIO to Examine New Strategies, Structures. Retrieved August 4, 2008 from website: http://www.cwa-union.org/news/page.jsp?
Harrison, J. (2001). Labor, management experts offer views on challenges of the new
workplace. Retrieved August 4, 2008 from website: http://uanews.org/node/4436
Jedel, M. (1998). The role of today’s labor movement. Retrieved August 4, 2008
from website: http://www.cba.gsu.edu/magazine/jedel.html
Law, S (2004). Labor regulation in the 21st century. Retrieved August 4, 2008 from website:
Moberg, David (2004). Organize, strategize, revitalize unions debate best way to revive labor’s
fortunes. Retrieved August 4, 2008 from website: http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/681/
Shostak, Arthur (2001). Todays’ unions as tomorrow’s cyberunions: labor’s newest hope. Retrieved August 3, 2008 from website: http://www.cyberunions.net/articles/article_
The Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO (n.d.) What is the AFL-CIO. Retrieved August 4, 2008 from website: http://www.longislandfed.org/WhatisAFLCIO.htm
U.S. Department of Labor (n.d.) Rethinking Union Structures, Rebuilding Union Capacity…
Innovation On The Ground: New Approaches To Union Organizing. Retrieved August 4, 2008 from website: http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/history/herman/reports/futurework/
U.S. Department of State (n.d.) The decline of union power. Retrieved August 2, 2008 from
Conclusively, labor unions do offer tremendous benefits to its members and even workers who are not part of it. It helps us make a stand against oppressions and maltreatments. It enables us to speak our minds especially with regards to attain better work relationships and atmosphere.
I personally have never been a member of any union not have I joined any of their activity. Thankfully though, I am truly glad that our great grandfathers were smart and brave enough to ever think about organizing themselves and collectively stood up against unfair treatments; otherwise, I will not be able to experience the privileges I am enjoying right now.
Effects of Labor Unions
Without labor unions, there would be no laws and government agencies to administer proper wages and other fringe benefits, set standard working hours, establish rules concerning healthy working conditions, promotions and increases. It was also through labor unions that the government implements certain provisions like overtime pay, holiday pay, health care assistance, separation pay and pensions plans. Sick leaves, vacation leaves, maternity and paternity leaves, grievance leaves and tenure benefits also came about as the end-result of negotiations between union representatives and the employers.
It was due to the streams of union strikes that the government established rules and regulations governing proper treatment of employees, for both member and non-members of unions. Together with this are the provisions of proper and healthy working environment and implementation of reasonable policies especially in carrying out disciplinary actions to employees due to non-abidance to the set policies.
My neighbor’s nephew turned 18 and went out to get a job. The first job he landed on is in a fish factory where he experience unfair treatment from his employer. The management of the factory made them work under very extreme temperature without coat or protective gloves with very slippery floors, existence of other hazardous materials and dirty toilets and cafeteria. The following week, one of his co-worker complained to their local government about the kind of working condition they are made to suffer. After a couple of days of investigation, the factory was faced with a labor case and was even forced to pay a fine due to felony. To avoid foreclosure, the management provided coats and protective gloves to the entire workforce, modulated the temperature in the work area, cleaned the entire facility, got rid of hazardous materials, bought new containers and materials needed to clean and prepare the fishes, fixed the toilets and renovated the cafeteria.
Employers also somewhat benefit from labor unions. Aside from the laws that protect the rights of the unions as well as the employers, labor unions themselves have regulations that administer its members with regard to their behavior not only during labor discussions but on a daily basis as well. They also execute disciplinary actions to non-abiding members. This results in more efficient and effective work performance and greater productivity on the part of the members, ensuing greater revenues for the company and consequently, a better and mutually beneficial labor relationship.
Labor negotiations and disputes play an essential role in contributing to the uplift of the country’s economy. They can contribute to either economic growth or failure. Where strikes might cause paralysis in the industry, the unionized employees work for good negotiation outcomes which can contribute to a higher productivity rate and greater income generation. It could be in agriculture, transportation, telecommunication, manufacturing among others. The better part is that labor unions can and does uplift a country’s economic situation and individuals’ social status.