Collective Bargaining Thesis

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Collective bargaining is the process by which workers organize among themselves to negotiate with their employers over work conditions -- including salary, hours, benefits, etc. The result of the process of collective bargaining is almost always a written contract that covers everyone in a job class, including non-union as well as union members (Nyland, 1987, p. 24).

A current example of collective bargaining exists in the negotiations between major league soccer players (MLS) and their management. (the current state of negotiations is addressed at the following blog: http://www.sportsagentblog.com/2010/02/01/mls-collective-bargaining-agreement / and in this article from Sports Illustrated: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/soccer_america/08/05/MLS.forecast/index.html ).In some ways this is a typical negotiation given that the two sides are each trying to get the best deal for themselves. In this case, as in many others, what is best for each side is also in large measure best for both, as Roberts writes in his blog:

Neither side feels like it can give in, but neither side can afford to miss the season. The league needs fans in the seats and the players need to get paid, especially those that are already strapping for cash because they make the minimum league salary of $34,000.

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This set of negotiations may seem very different from the kinds carried on by firefighters or nurses because many of the workers (the soccer players) are very high profile and very well paid. But the fundamental dynamics remain the same: The workers are using their ultimate threat of striking to get better working conditions.

Question Two

In this first case (described at http://www.uri.edu/union/gau/viewnews.php?ID=17

graduate students at New York University were trying to preserve their right to unionize and to affiliate with other unions of their choice. The legal point at issue (also described at http://www.uri.edu/union/gau/viewnews.php?ID=17

http://www.2110uaw.org/gsoc/

TOPIC: Thesis on Collective Bargaining Is the Process by Which Assignment

) is whether graduate student employees at private universities have the right to unionize. Such efforts have long been fought by universities, who received support from the Bush Administration. A call is currently being made for the enactment of the Teaching and Research Assistants Collective Bargaining Rights Act, a law that if passed would amend the National Labor Relations Act "to restore collective bargaining rights to teaching and research assistants at private universities and colleges" (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ta_rights/

Another current issue involving collective bargaining involves TSA workers, who are allowed to unionize but not permitted to bargain collectively. The result (described at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/01/AR2009040103716.html

is exceedingly low morale amongst TSA workers. The purport of the law that denies them collective bargaining rights is that they have a job that is essential to national security.

In the third case, unions are seeking to change the law (part of the National Labor Relations Board Act) that would allow for unions to sign up members in a much simpler election process. The Employee Free Choice Act (also called "card-check") would in all likelihood greatly increase union strength and is thus almost universally vilified by companies http://dailyreporter.com/blog/2009/09/23/federal-card-check-bill-clings-to-life / http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ta_rights/

Four issues that are potential components of a collective bargaining agreement are salary, work hours, health insurance, and pension benefits. Currently the state employees in California are engaged in bargaining with the state (that is, with the executive power of the state in the form of Governor Arnold Scharzeneggar) over a number of issues that had been agreed to in their union contract but that the governor is now attempting to throw out because of the state's current budget crisis. The complexities of this negotiation are summarized by the Legislative Analyst's Office at:

http://www.lao.ca.gov/reports/2010/stadm/employee_comp/employee_comp_012710.aspx http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ta_rights/

The current negotiations involve all of the above issues. For example, the governor is asking state employees to contribute an additional five percent of their own pay to their pensions. This Analyst -- which is a non-partisan office -- has recommended that this su http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ta_rights/

would save the state $724 million but would substantially impact state workers, many of whom feel that lower salaries in the public sector are compensated for by a good pension program. The Legislative

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ta_rights/

State employees are also currently in negotiation over their health benefits. The governor has proposed moving all state workers' health insurance to a different insurance company. The result of this would be savings to the state, but lower quality and more expensive insurance for state workers.

Question Four

The process of establishing a bargaining unit consists of organizing a group of workers who wish to negotiate as a unit with their employers. Professional and nonprofessional workers must be in separate units and craft units cannot be subsumed in another unit without the permission of the craft workers. When the workers have agreed to bargain together and have either chosen to begin a new union or join an established one they petition to be recognized -- "certified" -- by the National Labor Relations Board. Members of a bargaining unit have similar interests with other members in their unit.

A current example of an attempt to establish a bargaining unit is underway as the United Food and Commercial Workers union is attempting to unionize workers at Wal-Mart. There would be different bargaining units if the corporation were unionized -- with drivers perhaps joining the teamsters and clerks joining the UFCW. Unionizing different categories of workers at Wal-Mart has high stakes for both unions and corporations, as noted in this story: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123992564986427357.html

Wal-Mart remains one of labor's staunchest opponents, arguing that a union would lead to higher operating costs and less flexibility in managing workers. It also represents labor's biggest prize, because its jobs can't be shipped overseas and it sets standards in the retail and grocery industries. Union officials believe they would have an easier time organizing Wal-Mart competitors if the retailer were represented by unions.

Clerical workers are one of the most important groups of workers for unions to focus on organizing since more and more American workers are clerical workers. One of the reasons that union strength has diminished in recent decades is that there are fewer and fewer of the blue-collar workers who were the mainstay of union workers.

Question Five

A clear example of an unfair labor practice comes from a Chicago hotel associated with the Marriott Corporation. In this case (described at http://www.chitowndailynews.org/Chicago_news/Union_alleges_unfair_labor_practices_at_Blackstone_hotel,30008) the company fired a dozen or so workers because they were active in union organizing, a right that they have guaranteed to them under federal law. Protection of the right to organize is vital to workers.

In a related example of an unfair labor practice, Wal-Mart is being challenged by United Food & Commercial Workers Local 789 for attempting to intimidate workers from joining a union by holding "captive meetings" of workers in which the workers are warned not to organize. This mirrors the above case in which the federally guaranteed right of workers to organize is being abridged (http://www.workdayminnesota.org/index.php?news_6_4088

In a different perspective on unfair labor practices, a nurse has lodged a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board that her workplace is being unionized despite the fact that an election went against unionization. This is an interesting case because both management and workers acknowledge that the union lost the election, but the union challenged this result because its lawyers argued that organizers were intimidated during their organization drive (which is against federal labor law). Before the National Labor Relations Board could respond to this complaint, a new petition drive began. The nurse in Question then filed her complaint arguing that the union was engaging in unfair labor practices because it was allowing itself do-overs until they were certified. (

http://thebulletin.us/articles/2010/01/31/news/local_state/doc4b66469c0faa5211408266.txt http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ta_rights/

In the area of labor relations (as in other areas of human relations), an arbitrator is an impartial, disinterested person that works to resolve a dispute among two or more individuals or parties. In this sense, the role of an arbitrator is similar to that of a mediator; however, the decision that an arbitrator makes is binding. This is not the case when a mediator is used.

The case (described at http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/rss/article/940570

) involves a labor dispute between a city (Quispamsis) and its fire department. The firefighters' union has been advocating for an additional firefighter on the small force so that the current firefighters could have longer rests between being on duty. The city has been refusing to hire the additional firefighter on the grounds that the cost is too great.

This is a typical labor relations dispute: Employers want to pay less and workers want more rights (in this case, an increase in safety) and there is little if any middle ground. This is also an excellent example of when an arbitrator can be extremely useful. Here is the perspective of the firefighters' union about the usefulness of calling in an arbitrator:

The Kennebecasis Firefighters Union will support the Town of Quispamsis in its bid for arbitration if it means an ongoing dispute about the hiring of a firefighter will be solved sooner than later, says the union president.

Reg Verner said the union is urging the towns to settle the debate and move forward for the sake of citizens' safety.

Arbitration may… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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