Essay: Labor Relations

Pages: 12 (4099 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Careers  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] For many private sector unions, the right to strike is protected by federal law.

Public sector unions can be very powerful politically because they have the ability to bargain collectively with government. However, they may be limited to negotiating specific items (Disalvo, 2010). For example, they may not be able to negotiate on pensions or health care benefits, if those are uniform for all state employees. Private sector unions' contracts are negotiated strictly between the union and employers. Essentially, there are no limits on the topics that can be discussed, unless the union and the employers agree to exclude them. This means more interests can be negotiated.

References

Carrell, M.R., & Heavrin, C. (2007). Labor relations and collective bargaining: Cases, practice, and law (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Disalvo, D. (2010). The Trouble with Public Sector Unions. National Affairs. Issue 5 Retrieved May 15, 2012 from http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/print/the-trouble-with-public-sector-unions.

6. The right to strike is one of the rights made available to employees expressly provided by the National Labor Relations Act. Do you believe that striking against a company is a good way to promote collective bargaining? Why or why not?

During the 1940s to the 1970s, workers made significant gains in wages, pensions, and employer-paid health care through aggressive collective bargaining backed by powerful strikes. Unions who successfully halted production through a labor stoppage were able to serve a crippling economic blow to employers (Carrell & Heavrin, 2007). While some victories are still won using this method, collective negotiations are often made more hostile for all parties and lead to increased feelings of animosity. Striking can also spur reactions of employer repression. In a 1998 survey conducted by Cornell University's Kate Bronfenbrenner, "employers threatened to close the plant in 57% of elections, discharged workers in 34%, and threatened to cut wages and benefits in 47% of elections."

Since the legal protection of the strike weapon was first introduced, it has been so significantly limited by legal and practical barriers that strikes are rarely used today. The range of penalties that might be imposed on strikers and unions by employers, courts, and government has been broad. Thus, strikes prove to be a costly and risky endeavor. Major strikes have been responded to by martial law, criminal indictments, fines, and military action. Some strikers have been fired, and unions have been fined and held liable for damages. Union leaders have been arrested, jailed, and convicted of crimes for encouraging violence, sometimes with very little evidence of personal misconduct (Getman, 2003). However, without an effective right to strike, collective bargaining often becomes ineffectual. As pointed out by Carrell & Heavrin, "Economic weapons such as a strike are necessary to the collective bargaining process."

Unions that resort to strike methods may face internal challenges as well. They must maintain solidarity and high morale among strikers. The strike will fail if disgruntled unionists return to work out of financial necessity or before a contract settlement is reached. Employers can also undermine union solidarity by offering a better deal to some workers than others. All of this hinders collective bargaining efforts. Today, in place of the full-scale strike, many unions have resorted to other tactics such as the corporate campaign and the one-day publicity strike.

References

Bronfenbrenner, K. (et. al). (1998). Organizing to Win: New Research on Union Strategies. Edited by Kate Bronfenbrenner, Sheldon Friedman, Richard W. Hurd, Rudolph Oswald, and Ronald L. Seeber. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Carrell, M.R., & Heavrin, C. (2007). Labor relations and collective bargaining: Cases, practice, and law (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Julius, G. (2003), The National Labor Relations Act: What Went Wrong; Can We Fix It? Retrieved May 15, 2012 from Boston College Law Review 125 http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol45/iss1/3.

7. Distinguish among mandatory, permissive, and illegal bargaining subjects. Give examples of each.

Mandatory bargaining subjects are those that directly impact wages, hours or working conditions. The Supreme Court refined the definition of mandatory bargaining subjects as those that "vitally affect" employees and must be negotiated in good faith (Carrell & Heavrin, 2007). It is not a requirement that parties reach an agreement, just that both parties have to engage in the bargaining process if it touches one of these vital areas. Paid training, work schedules, stock options, overtime, lunch breaks and paid time off are all examples of this type of bargaining subject.

Permissive subjects are those which parties may bargain over, but they are deemed non-mandatory and therefore not required. Both parties must agree for permissive subjects to be bargained (Carrell & Heavrin, 2007). If the employer brings an item such as retirement benefits, definitions of the bargaining unit itself or internal union matters forward, the union may engage in bargaining, but is in no way obligated to do so. The union does not have to make any concession or come to any agreement over a permissive issue. It may agree to discuss the matter, engage in full bargaining and reach agreement on the issue, or decline to talk about it all together, making it null and void. There are rules that must be adhered to in regards to permissive subjects. A strike would be an unprotected activity under law. Similarly, an employer carrying out a unilateral implementation would be considered illegal.

Finally, illegal subjects of bargaining are items that cannot be bargained over legally by either party. If an issue is deemed to violate a law it cannot be entered into a legal contract, despite the fact that both parties may agree. One example is discrimination against a legally recognized group of people.

Reference

Carrell, M.R., & Heavrin, C. (2007). Labor relations and collective bargaining: Cases, practice, and law (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

8. Describe how interest-based bargaining is different from other techniques.

Interest-based bargaining is a newer bargaining method. It may offer parties more flexibility than traditional bargaining, not locking them into predetermined issues and bargaining positions. It takes a more collaborative approach that begins with understanding the problem and identifying the interests of both sides. In many instances, both sides find that their interests are mutual and they are taking differing approaches to addressing the same problem (Carrell & Heavrin, 2007). The goal is to find the middle-ground or "win-win" to satisfy a particular interest instead of ending negotiations with winners and losers. "Interest-based bargaining assumes that mutual gain is possible, that solutions which satisfy mutual interests are more durable, and that the parties should help each other achieve a positive result" (Estes, 1997).

In interest-based bargaining, the sharing of relevant information is critical for effective solutions; issues outweigh personalities; and the present and future outweigh the past (Carrell & Heavrin, 2007). When implemented effectively, this method can be successful, but should not be viewed as an across the board replacement for positional negotiating. However, the openness of this bargaining technique can decrease suspicion and distrust and improve relationships during the bargaining process. A highly skilled mediator or consulting group is often brought in to be unbiased assistants in reaching agreements on bargaining ground rules, issues to be negotiated and contingency plans for a transition to traditional bargaining if for some reason the process breaks down (Estes, 1997).

References

Carrell, M.R., & Heavrin, C. (2007). Labor relations and collective bargaining: Cases, practice, and law (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Estes, M. (1997). Adversaries find common ground. Workforce, 76(3), 97.

9. Why do employees today place such a high priority on paid time off? Do you feel that companies are fair in their offerings for vacation/personal/sick time? Why or why not?

Paid time off (PTO) is an expectation of many employees today. Plans allow employees to accrue days off in a single account and spend them as they desire. Workers who are healthy and who have healthy families love PTOs because they can take some of the days that were formerly classified as sick days as vacation. Where unused sick days under a traditional plan are not typically carried over year to year, unused PTO days usually can be, even if subject to a cap on the total number of days accrued. Therefore, if an employee budgets for five sick days and only uses two this year, the remaining three would accrue for next year, and he would be free to use them as he sees fit. In addition, in most states, paid time off, like vacation time, has to be paid out when the employee leaves the employer (DiNovella, 2009). This is another plus for employees.

Many employers fold PTO into their disability benefits, allowing workers to carry over a sufficient number of days to get through the deductible period before short-term disability coverage begins (Carrell & Heavrin, 2007).. But examined another way, a month-long illness could ruin an employee's plan for a two-week vacation by forcing him or her to use eight or more PTO days for sick time before… [END OF PREVIEW]

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