Employment Relations Essay

Pages: 10 (4081 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Careers

Employment Relations


The origins of the labor movement lay in the formative years of the American nation, when a free wage-labor market emerged in the artisan trades late in the colonial period. The earliest recorded strike occurred in 1768 when New York journeymen tailors protested a wage reduction. The formation of the Federal Society of Journeymen (shoemakers) in Philadelphia in 1794 marks the beginning of sustained trade union organization among American workers. From that time on, local craft unions proliferated in the cities, publishing lists of "prices" for their work, defending their trades against diluted and cheap labor, and, increasingly, demanding a shorter workday. Thus a job-conscious orientation was quick to emerge, and in its wake there followed the key structural elements characterizing American trade unionism (LABOR 1991).

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The United States is widely recognized to have the most flexible labor market in the industrialized world. At the heart of this reputation lies the historic employment-at-will default rule for indefinite-term employment contracts. This common law rule was first recognized in the middle of the nineteenth century and was adopted in every state by the early twentieth century; Employment at will, in its classic formulation, holds that, absent a written contract stating otherwise, an employee can quit or be fired for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all. Despite America's reputation for employment flexibility, substantial limitations to the employment-at-will rule have been introduced over time. Foremost among the statutory limitations to employment at will are prohibitions on the "bad reasons" for which an employee may be fired. The National Labor Relations Act (1935) forbids discriminatory employment practices based on a worker's participation in collective action.etc. (Schanzenbach, 2003).

TOPIC: Essay on Employment Relations Assignment

The idea of the working-class consumer citizen constituted a direct response to the cultural and political power of the prewar American labor movement, as business leaders drew upon and reoriented understandings of working-class solidarity and commitment to social progress, to link blue-collar working men to their families, their jobs, and the nation. As evidenced by similar discussions of class, consumption, and citizenship in postwar popular culture, the consumer's democracy provided a framework for debate on these topics. Although business interests attempted to shape American consumer culture into a unified commitment to national economic progress during the early postwar period, the economic and cultural contradictions of their vision subsequently undermined that project. Collapsing blue-collar labor markets and the perception that consumer citizenship threatened patriarchal relations within the working-class home shattered the dream of working-class consumer citizenship by the early 1970s (Sheehan, 2003).

In relations to the effects that the labor market is having on employee relations can be viewed in two ways, one view is through the employees the other is through the perception of the market. In 1991 Bridges & Villemez conducted research attempting to understand the process from the view of the market. Their analyses of economic transactions show that most exchanges are colored by both market and non-market considerations. In the 1970's there arose interest regarding employment relationships and the labor market. Since then researchers have attempted to define internal labor markets (ILMs) in relationship to employment and other domestic settings. A significant point was obtained when ILMs were recognized in conjunction with bureaucratic employment structures i.e. personnel departments, job classifications, pay systems etc. Along with this association came the title of ILMs under governance structure. Employee relations is a term often used interchangeably with industrial relations and human resource management to describe particular human resource management (HRM) or industrial relations (IR) philosophies and approaches. The debate concerning whether to use ER, or HRM or IR can be located in the continuing debates about the nature and direction of workplace change, even though there is considerable discussion about what all three terms mean. (Employee relations (ER),2005)

The early labor movement was, however, inspired by more than the immediate job interest of its craft members. It harbored a conception of the just society, deriving from the Ricardian labor theory of value and from the republican ideals of the American Revolution, which fostered social equality, celebrated honest labor, and relied on an independent, virtuous citizenship. The transforming economic changes of industrial capitalism ran counter to labor's vision. The result, as early labor leaders saw it, was to rise up "two distinct classes, the rich and the poor." Beginning with the workingmen's parties of the 1830s, the advocates of equal rights mounted a series of reform efforts that spanned the nineteenth century. Most notable were the National Labor Union, launched in 1866, and the Knights of Labor, which reached its zenith in the mid-1880s (LABOR 1991).

Some researchers have described trends in local public sector pay systems i.e. wages in terms of the traditional competitive model associated with ILMs, and others have stressed the influence of unions and the unique institutional aspects of local government wage determination. - Systematic empirical investigations have dealt primarily with the effect of unions on wages found in a specific occupation. Both academicians and the public in general have become increasingly interested in public sector wage determination which in itself has been associated with the labor market (Bridges & Villemez, 1991; Tsuru & Rebitzer, 1995). Academic interest has grown as this sector's economic influence has increased and as the budget problems facing many local governments have become apparently insurmountable. Civic awareness intensified with the rapid growth of unions and subsequent work stoppages in the public sector, especially in urban areas.

Open labor markets in essence stated that a workers previous experience is of little to no value to new employers. This perspective had a direct impact not only on how the employee now preserved the work that he or she was doing, now there was the added stress of being told that now that experience could not carry over into another profession or field with much rank; in essence making flexibility within the labor market difficult to almost nonexistent. Researchers report that there were now stipulations that, depending on the asset specifically in workers' training investment, employment relationships would either be engulfed in the governance structure or subject to external market mechanisms. Local governments are subject to supply and demand forces in the geographic labor market in which they are located. i.e. increased demands from private industries cause an area's wages to rise, for instance, public sector employers will have to match those increases to retain qualified personnel. Furthermore, like other buyers of labor services, local government units that expand their labor forces often must raise wages to attract workers (Tsuru & Rebitzer, 1995).

Researchers believe that ILMs can be understood when associated with being a smaller part of employment bureaucracy (Bridges & Villemez, 1991). ILMs can be considered to take the form of job postings and bidding systems, or job ladders. There is a marked contrast between studies concerned with external labor markets (ELMs) and hose concerned with ILMs. Even outside economics, most external market studies tend to assume a fully competitive structure or variation along relatively narrow grounds as the degree of monopoly in the market for a particular occupation or kind of worker. Despite injunction to view markets as in broader social milieu, few studies have aimed variation in the basic structural components that allow labor markets to function with varying degrees of efficacy. An important aspect of the present study is its examination of the wages of all city employees in assessing the influence of market forces and unionism on municipal wages. At this aggregate wage level, the forces affecting individual groups of workers can be put into the perspective of the entire payroll, and valuable insights into wage-induced budget pressures can be obtained. Furthermore, this study draws upon data from a much broader cross section of the nation's largest cities than most previous studies of municipal wages have employed (Tsuru & Rebitzer, 1995).

Historically labor regulation and trade unions formed the dominant paradigm to understanding workplace behavior and the role of trade unions in collectively organizing workers. Under this paradigm, labor regulation was understood in the context of third party arbitration. Orderly and compulsory arbitration was meant to be a substitute for strikes and lockouts and unbridled managerial prerogative. Academic debate has focused on the role of trade unions and the state in fostering a 'collectivist' approach to employment regulation emphasizing the interaction between regulation institutions, employers, and trade unions. Increasingly however, there is growing HRM literature that argues for the primacy of the role of HRM in shaping the employment relationship. The HRM approach is often considered 'unitarist' and associated with strong managerial prerogative. Some researchers use the term 'ER' to describe a form of employment management at workplace level that relies on human resource management practices in order to manage conflict and avoid the intrusion of third parties such as unions in the employment relationship. (Employee relations (ER), 2005)

Under enterprise unionism, Japanese unions have demanded, negotiated with, and applied pressure on… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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