Topics in Labor Relations

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Key Topics in Labor Relations

26 February 2012

Lynne Treykor

Collective bargaining, as its name implies, is achieved when two or more parties come together to make a decision about something. Specifically, it is achieved when employers and a group of employees work together to decide important terms and conditions regarding employment. These terms and conditions include compensation as well as rights and responsibilities of employees, employers, and unions. They can also include guidelines for resolving problems such as grievances and disputes (Budd, 2010, p. 13). According to our text book, Labor Relations: Striking a Balance, increased focus on quality and greater competitiveness caused changes in business that have shaped collective bargaining in three ways. First, collective bargaining has experimented with less detailed, shorter work guidelines or contracts. This is an attempt to increase flexibility and efficiency that was stifled by large, multi-volume, detailed guides/contracts. Second, mutual gains of integrative bargaining have been embraced to enhance cooperation and joint problem solving instead of competition and conflict. Finally, collective bargaining has become more focused on continuous communication to foster flexibility and on-going productive and cooperative relationships. This goal was not well served by the traditional process of re-negotiating contracts on a 3 year basis (Budd, 2010, p. 13-14). It was interesting to learn that the current legal framework for private sector collective bargaining dates back to 1935, which was actually during the great depression. This was followed by WWII which brought about an era of mass manufacturing and was marked by a significant difference between blue and white collar workers. Today in the US, mass manufacturing has declined as flexible production methods, the rise of knowledgeable workers and intense global competition has increased (Budd, 2010, p. 14). The unions and collective bargaining processes in place after WWII, during the era of mass manufacturing, were born from the need to establish safe working conditions, fair wages, and employee benefits. These unions also earned a bad reputation and caused rifts between employers and employees. Today’s employers see the benefit of employee’s involvement and want to take care of their employees. Employees want to contribute and feel like they make a difference. This has led to improved working conditions, compensation and a decline in the perceived need for collective bargaining and unions. The truth is that many different things can affect collective bargaining. In Wisconsin the 2010 elections placed elected officials in power that did not support collective bargaining. In fact they took actions to take collective bargaining rights away from public employees sighting the reduced spending would help state budget problems. According to the Collective Bargaining Fact Sheet found online at, similar issues came up in at least twelve other states. In response, there have been protests and recall elections. (Collective bargaining fact, 2010) An example of collective bargaining can be found in the case of Maryland’s Wicomico County Sheriff’s Deputies. After a five year struggle for reform with little progress, the deputies became part of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Lodge #111, an organization that represents law enforcement officers throughout the country. A series of cordial negotiations between the FOP and county officials took place and resulted in an agreement on some 28 items which included wages, pensions, clothing allowance and a no strike clause (Wicomico County Maryland, 2011). Since police officers play a key role in protecting the public and ensuring safety, they are prohibited from striking. This is the case for the majority of government employees in the United States (Budd, 2010, p. 266). The most...
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