In today's labor market the threat of union organization is not often at the top of employers' lists of priorities. The balance between employers' basic freedom to make decisions within an organization and the rights of employees to be protected from illegal action must be preserved in the interest of both. Open, honest communication is a key strategy of effective employee and labor relations. In this paper, I will identify how unions and labor relations impact organizations. I will also examine the impact of changes in employee relations strategies, policies and practices on organizational performance.
Labor relations are a broad field encompassing all the myriad interchanges between employers and employees. Labor relations emphasizes skills that managers and union leaders use to foster effective labor-management cooperation, minimize costly forms of conflict (strikes), and seek win-win solutions to disagreements (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhert, Wright, 2003 p 442). While labor relations are most often used to discuss this exchange as it pertains to unionized employees, it may also refer to non-union employees as well.
In the United States, labor relations gained a huge boost with the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935. This act covered a wide range of labor rights, including the right to strike, the right to bargain as a union, and a general right to protest and take action to achieve their desires. The National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act, gave most employees these rights.
Employees choose to join unions for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons are as follows:
- Compensation and benefits are not commensurate for peers doing similar work.
- Employee discipline and grievance systems are not established.
- Promises that were made have not been kept.
- Management does not make an effort to obtain employee input.
- Promised pay raises have not materialized.
- Seniority is ignored in decision making.
Campaigns and Elections
Over the last several years as unions' interest in using card check and neutrality agreements has grown as part of their organizing efforts. A Campaign is typically a comprehensive effort to pressure an organization into the collective bargaining process (Employee and Labor Relations 2005). It may involve a public relations effort against the employer, a boycott of the company's products or services, use or threatened use of litigation, political or regulatory pressure and/or attempts to interfere with customer relationships. Although many elements of Campaigns may constitute legal, protected activity under the NLRA, Campaigns that are primarily designed and implemented to pressure an organization by harming its business operations (as opposed to representing the best interests of the employees), have raised concern among human resource professionals, employers, and public policy decision-makers.
The goal is to sign up a sizable majority. By asking your co-workers to join and support the union program by signing membership cards. This "card campaign" should proceed quickly once begun and is necessary to hold a union election. The signed cards are used to petition the state or federal labor board to hold an election. It will take the labor board at least several weeks to determine who is eligible to vote and schedule the election. The union campaign must continue and intensify during the wait. If the union wins, the employer must recognize and bargain with the union. Winning a union election not only requires a strong, diverse organizing committee and a solid issues program, but there must also be a plan to fight the employer's anti-union campaign.
The organizing campaign does not let up after an election victory. The real goal of the campaign, a union contract (the document the union and the employer negotiate and sign, covering everything from wages to how disputes will be handled), is still to...