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Discuss whether unions are still relevant and necessary in today’s work environment. What other means might be used to ensure the ‘‘employee voice’’ in the workplace?
Please use the information below as a reference. I am using information from what the teacher provided. She said to use the following citation (Saylor.org (n.d.) Human resources management. Retrieved from https://learn.saylor.org/course)
Labor relations is neither an event nor a set of laws, rules, and procedures. Instead, it is a process. Labor unions (also called labor organizations or simply unions) are key participants in the process, but there are others as well. Employees are a critical group. Under the U.S. system of union-management relations, it is employees who are empowered to decide, through government-supervised elections, whether they desire union representation. This means the government is yet another key player in the process. Through regulatory agencies, such as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the U.S. government plays a crucial role in overseeing labor relations.
Managers constitute another vital participant group. It is managers who establish an organization's attitude and approach toward unions―friendly, hostile, or something in between. You should concentrate on understanding the basic roles of management, unions, employees, and government. Equally important is an understanding of the external influences that bear on the process. These basic elements will be subject to closer scrutiny as the course proceeds.
Finally, an effective system of union-management relations depends upon third-party neutrals such as mediators and arbitrators. These individuals owe their allegiance to neither union nor management. Instead, they serve as referees, facilitators, or decision makers in helping to resolve disputes.
The central participants in the labor relations process are union representatives who speak for employees and management officials representing the employer. These are commonly referred to as the parties. In a unionized organization, it is union and management representatives who hammer out an agreement covering the wages, hours, and other working conditions of covered employees.
These negotiations are not conducted in a vacuum. On the contrary, they affect and are affected by various external parties, e.g., neutrals, representatives of the NLRB, and agents of other government agencies such as the Department of Labor and the courts. External variables, including laws and regulations, labor and product market pressures, technology, and various social and political considerations, also influence negotiations. Even public opinion can influence the conduct of labor relations.
An illustration of many of these factors at work may be found in the United Parcel Service v. Teamsters Union negotiations and strike of 1997. The parties initially failed to reach voluntary agreement. An impasse was reached, followed by a national strike by the union. Mediation was, at first, unsuccessful. Arbitration of disputed issues was rejected. Some in positions of influence called on President Clinton to invoke national emergency procedures for ending the strike under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). He declined.
In the meantime, market forces, in the form of outcries from business interests, as well as the reality of UPS competitors (such as Federal Express and the U.S. Postal Service) moving in to claim large portions of UPS's business, were creating intense pressure for settlement of the dispute. The AFL-CIO and other labor organizations were united in support of the Teamsters Union. Public opinion appeared to favor the employees and their union. Within a few weeks, with prodding from the secretary of labor, the parties finally reached an agreement that eventually was ratified by the union membership.
Try This Try This 1.1: Labor-Management Relations Concepts
2. The Evolution of Labor-Management Relationships
A number of key events have shaped the development of the labor movement in the United States. These events are easier to grasp by organizing them into three separate time frames: pre-World War I, World War I to World War II, and World War II to the present. Each of these eras produced landmark events having a profound and lasting influence on the conduct of labor relations.
The predecessors to modern-day unions were the craft guilds of medieval Europe. These small associations (of "the butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers") were a primitive effort to establish fair wages and working conditions for working people. Fast-forward several hundred years to the modern labor union. It not only deals with management on day-to-day issues but may also lobby Congress for new laws favorable to labor or use the Internet to attract new members.
Violence and bloodshed sometimes accompanied the growth of unionism in the nineteenth century. In recent years, the conduct of labor relations has become more "institutionalized." Mediators, arbitrators, and the NLRB have helped to build a framework for resolving disputes without resorting to riots, guns, or violence.
Before the 1930s, labor unions organized, recruited members, and dealt with management without the benefit of the legislated rights and protections we take for granted today. Many disputes were resolved through the application of unbridled power―or "in the streets." Companies employed antiunion tactics, including fear and intimidation, that today would be considered both illegal and unethical. Unions often operated in secret, for fear that union sympathizers would be identified and blacklisted by employers.
Since the passage of the NLRA in 1935, the conduct of labor-management relations in the United States has been governed by federal statute. This law, which has been amended several times, has defined the regulatory relationship between union and management during what may appropriately be called the "modern era."
We summarize the evolution of labor-management relations in the following subsections.
1869 to World War I
Two national labor organizations―The Knights of Labor (KOL), under Terence Powderly, and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)―were formed, prospered for a time, and then faded. The forces behind their creation and the reasons for their demise are instructive in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of modern labor. A third national organization, the American Federation of Labor (AFL), was formed during this period and has survived to this day. It was founded and led by Samuel Gompers for more than 30 years.
Perhaps the phenomenal early growth of the KOL demonstrates the frustration of workers at that time and the autocratic control maintained by many business owners, often referred to as "robber barons." Their conduct was not unusual for the era in which they operated but would be indefensible by today's standards. It's important to focus on both the KOL's achievements and the reasons for its failure. It certainly laid the groundwork for modern unions.
Yet another early labor organization was the International Workers of the World (IWW)―sometimes referred to as the "Wobblies." They were left-leaning and even borderline communists, or certainly viewed that way. Whereas the AFL supported capitalism, and simply wanted a bigger piece of the pie for workers, the Wobblies wanted to change the underlying capitalist system. They were unsuccessful, but their views are important to a complete understanding of the role of labor unions in modern society. Some people, even today, see unions as left leaning or as rabble-rousers, an image that is part of the legacy of both the KOL and the IWW.
The KOL and IWW have long since faded from the scene, but the AFL survives to this day. Why? Primarily, it focused on economic betterment, and, unlike the Knights did not involve itself in moral or social objectives. Among the tactics the nineteenth-century American labor movement and the AFL perfected were the sit-down strike, civil disobedience, and a "unity" approach. Several decades later the civil rights movement successfully used these tactics to achieve moral and social goals.
Two other events during this era also proved to have a long-term influence on the conduct of labor relations in this country. The first event was the Pullman strike of 1894, during which a railway union, led by the dynamic and controversial Eugene Debs, conducted job actions that eventually spread to 27 states and territories. Interstate commerce as well as cross-country mail service were interrupted. Eventually, President Grover Cleveland called in several thousand U.S. troops to help quell the strike (Holley, Jennings, & Wolters, 2005, p. 51). This strike showed Congress, the public, and the unions themselves how a labor dispute could have national repercussions. Its outcome reinforced the difficulty of conducting a successful strike in the face of a stubborn employer and a government policy hostile to unions.
The second important labor-relations milestone during this era was the Haymarket Riot, which was associated with the eight-hour workday movement. During that riot, 7 participants were killed, and 60 were wounded (Holley, Jennings, & Wolters, 2005, p. 44). Historians are not in complete agreement about all of the facts and underlying causes of this "incident." You can find other fascinating historical views of the riot on the Web.
World War I to World War II
This period was marked by limited growth in union membership. A rift within the AFL over the organization of nonunion unskilled and semiskilled workers resulted in the formation of a rival organization, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), led by John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers Union (UMW).
Unlike the AFL, which limited its membership to workers in the craft trades and other highly skilled occupations, the CIO sought to organize and represent all workers, both unskilled and semiskilled, across occupation lines in industrial settings. The CIO succeeded in organizing substantial numbers of workers during the 1930s and 1940s. The rivalry between the AFL and the CIO was intense. However, they eventually merged in 1955 to become what is known as the AFL-CIO, the world's largest federation of national and local unions.
World War II to the Present
With the merger creating the AFL-CIO, the labor movement reached the height of its power and influence. Postwar economic expansion fueled employees' appetites for expanding pay and benefits, opening up new areas of collective bargaining. New sources of members were found in the growing workforce in federal, state, and local governments. An era of relative labor peace ensued.
But all was not well with the labor movement. The NLRA was amended in 1947 by the Taft-Hartley Act and again in 1959 by the Landrum-Griffin Act. Both of these acts imposed greater restrictions on union activities and were viewed by those sympathetic to unions as antilabor. Labor strength, as measured by membership in unions, began to erode, and that decline has continued to this day.
In the 1980s, conservative President Ronald Reagan was elected to serve for two terms. During the Reagan era, many companies were emboldened to take a militant stance in collective bargaining. For the first time, we heard such phrases as "concession bargaining" or "take-back bargaining." Both of these terms signaled company efforts to diminish or eliminate wage or benefit gains that unions had achieved in previous contracts.
Today, union members constitute a minority of the workforce, and union membership has been declining for the past 30 years. Yet labor unions still play an influential role in our society. The current role of labor in the political arena is well illustrated by the controversy over the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the active role unions play in supporting specific political candidates.
After completing this topic and reading about labor-union history both on the Web and in your text, you should be prepared to identify each of the significant events or developments that occurred in these three periods and explain how they affected the labor movement and why they are important.
Try This Try This 1.2: Labor-Management Interactive Timeline
Topic 2 Self-Assessment Questions - Please go to My Tools > Self Assessments > to complete this self assessment.
3. Legal and Organizational Framework for Labor-Management Relations
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is the primary labor-relations law in the United States. A full appreciation of current labor law requires an understanding of its historical precedents, such as the Railway Labor Act (1926) and the Norris-LaGuardia Act (1932). In this topic, we also describe the ways in which unions and management create internal structures to deal effectively with each other.
The NLRA (also called the Wagner Act) has been amended several times since its passage in 1935. However, the core system of union-management relations it created continues to provide many important guarantees for American workers, including:
the right to unionize and to select their own representatives
once organized, the right to insist that an employer engage in collective bargaining
the right to support a union or to serve as a union official without intimidation or interference from one's employer
the right to refrain from any and all union activities
Under the NLRA, both management and the union establish organizational structures to facilitate their participation in the labor relations process. Management often deals with its union through the human resources staff and may employ lawyers as an additional source of advice. Individual organizations may assume different stances relative to unionization, ranging from cooperation to outright hostility. Unions are organized along "local" (plant-level) and "international" (nationwide) lines.
The AFL-CIO, based in Washington, D.C., serves as an umbrella organization in which many international unions maintain membership. The recent losses in union membership and the declining strength of the labor movement influence the priorities of unions today.
Basis for Labor Relations Law
The legal framework for the conduct of labor relations has many different sources, including:
laws enacted by the U.S. Congress and by state and local governments
decisions of the courts interpreting law and the Constitution
judicial decisions on issues not covered by statutes―that is, case law or common law
regulations and administrative decisions of governmental agencies such as the NLRB and the Department of Labor
executive orders issued by the president or elected executives of state or local governments
Evolution of the Legal Framework for the Conduct of Labor Relations
Early (1806–1931) judicial decisions were generally hostile to unionism. For example, the Cordwainers case (1806) established the idea that unionism was a "criminal conspiracy." According to this notion, when employees band together to withhold their services or raise wages they are engaging in illegal conduct. This ruling was modified in Commonwealth v. Hunt (1842), which held that not all strikes are illegal and that the specific motivation and methods of the union must be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Employers routinely required employees to sign yellow-dog contracts in which employees pledged, under threat of dismissal, not to join or support unions. Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890) and the Clayton Act (1914) to control business monopolies and to discourage price fixing. Nevertheless, the courts interpreted both of these laws to prevent or limit union activity.
Finally, employers looked to local judges to issue injunctions in labor disputes. Under this procedure, an order could be issued directing a union to cease its strike activity. A failure to honor the injunction could lead to severe financial penalties against unions or union officials. Injunctions were often issued without a full hearing at which both parties appeared. Employers were free to seek out "friendly" local judges who were unsympathetic to unions in general.
The Railway Labor Act (1926) was the first comprehensive federal statute granting union rights to employees. It was limited, however, to those in the railway industry (it was later extended to the airline industry). The first federal law applicable to employees in most industries was the Norris-LaGuardia Act (1932). It guaranteed employees full freedom of association without interference from employers, limited the power of the courts to issue injunctions, and declared yellow-dog contracts unenforceable.
The Norris-LaGuardia Act had a number of important shortcomings, however. First, it did not provide for an administrative enforcement agency, unlike the Railway Labor Act, which established the National Mediation Board. In addition, it failed to establish specific unfair labor practices. In 1933, another piece of New Deal legislation, the National Industrial Recovery Act, attempted to address some of these deficiencies. However, the Supreme Court in 1935 declared it unconstitutional.
Contemporary Labor Relations and the National Labor Relations Board
The beginning of the modern era of labor relations was marked by the enactment, in 1935, of the Wagner, or National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which was upheld as constitutional in 1937. The original law, which addressed only unfair labor practices by employers, has been amended several times over the years.
The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 established unfair labor practices on the part of unions and placed other limits on union activities. Congress amended it again in 1959 when it passed the Landrum-Griffin Act. It, too, addressed union abuses of power and established a "bill of rights" for union members. Later, coverage of the act was extended to the health-care industry (1974) and to the Postal Service (1970). The original Wagner Act of 1935 and its many amendments are cumulatively referred to as the NLRA or the National Labor Relations Act as amended.
The express policy of the NLRA is to stimulate commerce and encourage collective bargaining. It "guarantees" employees' rights to
join or not to join labor unions
bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing
strike or otherwise withhold their labor
Each of these rights has limitations. The law specifies practices of both unions and employers that are considered unfair (illegal).
The NLRB administers the NLRA. It is composed of five presidential appointees who decide cases as well as a general counsel who investigates and prosecutes charges of unfair labor practices (ULPs). The board also establishes bargaining units and supervises secret-ballot elections where employees may decide upon union representation. The NLRB's decisions, which are often controversial, are subject to review by the courts, including the Supreme Court.
The NLRB is frequently criticized for slow decision making or for applying a notable "pro-union" or "pro-management" slant in its decisions―depending upon your perspective. Other critics point to the board's limited remedial powers. The NLRB has no authority to fine or jail offenders. It can direct the reinstatement of employees who have been illegally terminated and may issue cease and desist orders against unions or employers that commit unfair labor practices.
Unions and Management: Establishing Internal Structures
The conduct of labor relations is governed by a legal framework, but the internal organizational structure of each side is not. Instead, both unions and management recognize that a healthy, profitable, and thriving organization benefits both parties. A secure and well-motivated workforce that is adequately compensated also benefits both sides.
Labor and management often diverge, however, when it comes to the priorities, methods, and policies that should be used in achieving mutual objectives. There is always a measure of tension between management's efforts to maintain decision-making flexibility and the union's efforts to assure employees' job security and a rightful share in the success of the enterprise―a fair "piece of the pie." Neither party wishes to have a strike or lockout, which is likely to take a toll on both sides.
The law does not require an employer to have a union. Generally, employers would prefer to avoid dealing with a union. They will employ every weapon within the letter of the law to resist union recognition. However, once employees have voted in favor of union representation, employers generally prefer a business-like, contract-based relationship of trust and cooperation with the union.
Employers often organize their human resources departments to deal effectively with the new challenges associated with unionization. They may hire a "labor relations manager," or in large organizations, an entire staff to conduct day-to-day dealings with the labor organization. It is a special challenge for the human resources staff to simultaneously build a harmonious and constructive relationship with the union while continuing to preserve "management rights."
The backbone of a union's organizational structure is the so-called local union. Local unions are distinguished as either craft or industrial. Craft unions (e.g., carpenters' or electricians' unions) are composed of skilled workers, who must typically complete a formal apprenticeship program before achieving licensure or full journeyman status in their occupation. Industrial unions comprise semiskilled or unskilled workers representing a broad spectrum of skills across a given industry. Many employees in the auto, coal, steel, and trucking industries are represented by large industrial unions.
At the local level, elected representatives (shop stewards) are the initial point of contact with management officials and human resources staff. Local officials, including shop stewards, may be charged with such tasks as negotiating contracts, resolving grievances, and participating in arbitration.
Local unions also gather together to form national or international unions that provide a higher level of power and influence vis-à-vis management, as well as providing research and support services to the locals. Indeed, many national unions have their headquarters in Washington, D.C., with ready access to congressional and other political leaders.
The culture, goals, and orientations of unions are as diverse as those of companies. The Airline Pilots Association and the NFL players association represent dues-paying members whose annual salaries far exceed those of the average American. At the other end of the spectrum, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has many minimum-wage and immigrant members, including janitors, health-care aides, and kitchen workers. It is always a challenge for the AFL-CIO to balance divergent interests and membership concerns. What is organized labor? It has no single face or identity.
Most of the major national unions in the United States have formed a federation, or umbrella organization, to better exert their influence on the national stage, particularly in the political and legislative arenas. This federation, the AFL-CIO, is a highly complex and multifaceted organization. As noted previously, the power and influence of the labor movement in the United States, as measured by union representation and membership in the workforce, has been declining steadily for the past 40 years to its current nadir of about 14 percent of the workforce (Holley, Jennings, & Wolters, 2005, 25).
A further indication of the labor movement's decline is found in the 2005 splintering of the AFL-CIO. Led by the SEIU, several national unions, representing more than a million union members, withdrew from the federation. This action was the culmination of a simmering dispute over the level of funds to be invested in organizing new members versus making allocations for political activities. How this schism will affect the financial health and influence of organized labor remains uncertain.
Discuss whether unions are still relevant and necessary in today’s work environment. What other means might be used to ensure the ‘‘employee voice’’ in the workplace?
Please use the information below as a reference. I am using information from what the teacher provided. She said to use the following citation (Saylor.org (n.d.) Human resources management. Retrieved from https://learn.saylor.