Thesis: Labor and Union Studies

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Labor and Union Studies

Define and discuss the term "collective bargaining." Include and discuss [showing relevance or applicability] a current web-based news item/magazine article about a real life example of a collective bargaining action. Write a succinct and complete summary on the contents of the article you've provided along with your critical comments about that article. Support your findings with referenced research.

Collective Bargaining consists of the meeting of employees with their employer for the purposes of arriving at a formal agreement on working conditions. In many cases, the workers are represented by a union or a group of elected representatives. Issues discussed generally include rates of pay, type of work performed, hours worked, and various other possible conditions such as provision of healthcare, vacation pay, the physical conditions under which work may be performed, promotions, etc. Collective bargaining groups operate according to the principle if "strength in numbers," and can threaten to withhold workers' services i.e. To strike if their demands are not met. Similarly, collective bargaining affords employers the opportunity to deal with employees as a group, thus avoiding lengthy individual negotiations. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 guaranteed workers' rights to unionize and to engage in collective bargaining. Further amendments to the Act allowed unions to, in effect, collect dues from non-union members in the same shop as these workers likewise benefited from union collective bargaining (Oswalt). In the late Twentieth Century, in fact, notions of collective bargaining were increasingly expanded to include non-unionized workers, like janitors in many places, organizing and reaching out the wider community on issues of employment that were framed as larger considerations of basic social justice (Oswalt, 2007).

In March 2009, an arbitrations panel ruled that the management of Spirit Airlines must be bound by collective bargaining agreement reached with its pilots. According to the online news site, Airline Industry Information, pilots at Spirit Airlines are to be permitted five days off and no fewer than four days between scheduled trips ("Arbitration Panel Rules," Airline Industry Information, 18 March 2009). This barebones version of events is further expanded upon in an online publication that describes the same issue from the point-of-view of the employees. According to Professional Pilot News, the decision of the arbitration panel was based on Spirit Airlines willful infraction of the existing agreement. The pilots were represented by the Airline Pilot Association. As stated in the article, the airline reneged on the 5/4 time off rule, specifically declaring, in August 2008, that it would not abode by the collective bargaining agreement ( "Spirit Airline Pilots," Professional Pilot News, 16 March 2009). A spokesman for the Airline Pilot Association, Capt. Sean Creed, stated that workers had struggled for more than two and half years to "get back what is ours," having fought against "violation after violation" on the part of Spirit Airlines management ( "Spirit Airline Pilots," Professional Pilot News, 16 March 2009). Binding arbitration is a common way of settling disputes between the two sides of a collective bargaining agreement. Neutral arbitrators arrive at a decision that must be accepted by both parties.

2. Identify three laws that support collective bargaining. Include and discuss [showing relevance or applicability] a current web-based news item/magazine article about each. Write a succinct and complete summary on the contents of the article you've provided along with your critical comments about that article. Support your findings with referenced research.

Collective Bargaining is supported by a range of federal regulation. As stated above, the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 enshrined the principles of union organizing and collective bargaining. The principles of the National Labor Relations Act promote "social integration, intergroup solidarity, and democratic deliberation; yet they [unions] also do much more, for they are more voluntary, more egalitarian, more autonomous, and more deeply animated by common interests and goals" (Estlund 17, 2003). Collective bargaining advances a social agenda, the organizing of workers permitting them to fight for what is right, and to force employers to place human interests above purely economic ones. The Federal Arbitration Act, first passed in 1925, and modified numerous times afterwards, including as recently as 1990, sets the standards for arbitration agreements. It also preempts any other state, local, or private agreements, a feature of the Act that has been the source of considerable litigation. In the 1984 case of Southland Corp. v. Keating, the United States Supreme Court noted that Federal Arbitration Act preemption interfered with state law decisional law, and limited the meaningful choices of drafters of adhesion contracts, some lesser courts even taking the line that general contracts could be overruled if they conflicted with the specific arbitration arrangements of the Federal Arbitration Act (Schwartz, 2003). Ultimately, the court ruled that, "an arbitration clause is merely a form of forum-selection clause, with no impact on substantive rights" (Schwartz, 2003). Arbitration is a means to an end, but not the end in and of itself. The fact that the Federal act was incomplete in the remedies it provided is shown by the adoption of the provisions of the 1956 Uniform Arbitration Act as state law by forty-nine of the fifty states. Importantly, this act permits courts to nullify arbiters' interpretations of collective bargaining agreements if "they fail to make a good faith effort to apply nonwaivable law" (Scodro). Once again, collective bargaining is seen as something operating for the good of the larger society, a good that is served by the best interests of workers and employers as represented in the general corpus of federal and state law.

3. List four issues that are potential components of a collective bargaining agreement. Pick any two of the four issues you've listed and include and discuss [showing relevance or applicability] a current web-based news item/magazine article about each of those [two] collective bargaining issues in action. Write succinct and complete summaries on the contents of each of the articles you've provided along with your critical comments about each article. Support your findings with referenced research.

Collective Bargaining Agreements tend to focus on issues of time off, rates of pay, general conditions of work, and employee healthcare, that is to say, how much of those healthcare costs will be paid by the employer vs. The employee, and to what extent such benefits will apply to family members and dependents. In the case of the pilots at Spirit Air, a 2008 article in Professional Pilot News informs us that, in the opinion of pilots, Spirit Airlines had unilaterally imposed changed in rates of pay and modified working conditions without recourse to the original collective bargaining agreement ("Pilots' Union Files Suit," Professional Pilot News, 8 September 2008). In a clear violation of its agreement with the Airline Pilots Association, the company changed the rules by simply furloughing workers while making no attempt to reduce the number of flights. As described in a statement by the Airline Pilots Association this evidently violates contract stipulations in regard to the number of pilots required to be employed based on the number of flights operated by the airline ("Pilots' Union Files Suit," Professional Pilot News, 8 September 2008). In its own defense, Spirit Airlines claimed that these changes were permitted by the contract, though oddly, it also declared that it was in the process of negotiating these changes through arbitration -- an apparent admission that these matters did not lie simply within the discretion of Spirit Airlines management ("Pilots' Union Files Suit," Professional Pilot News, 8 September 2008). A similar instance of employers refusing to play by the rules is noted by a Newsreview.com article about a dispute between educators in the Chico Unified School District in California. In this case, school district authorities have taken it upon themselves to be the final arbiters of the rightness or wrongness of any decisions based on existing contracts. Say district employees, this is an instance of the "fox guarding the henhouse" (Ginger McGuire, 27 November 2008). District officials refuse to permit binding arbitration. Among the issues are the district's passing on the cost of healthcare to employees despite existing agreements that mandate that the district pay the entire cost of that healthcare (Ginger McGuire, 27 November 2008). District employees have considered filing an unfair practice charge against the district. Like the pilots at Spirit Airlines, these employees feel that they have not been dealt with in good faith. The district claims arbitration will cost them money -- another example of employers putting profits -- or in this case, lower costs -- over social responsibility.

4. Describe the process of establishing a bargaining unit. Include and discuss [showing relevance or applicability] a current web-based news item/magazine article about any part of the process of establishing a bargaining unit. Write a succinct and complete summary on the contents of the article you've provided along with your critical comments about that article. Support your findings with referenced research.

Bargaining units can be divided broadly into two types -- vertical and horizontal. A vertical bargaining unit would consist of all employees who… [END OF PREVIEW]

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