Working with Organized Labor

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Some employees prefer to work in a unionized setting, whereas others prefer a workplace that is not unionized. This chapter explores the labor-management relationship between companies and unions. It gives a brief review of the historical origins of U.S. labor unions. This is followed by a description of the status of labor relations in the U.S. and in other countries. Two different labor relations strategies used by employers are addressed along with the rules and procedures that govern union activities. The chapter closes with a discussion of the impact of unions on HR policies and practices.


I.Why Do Employees Join Unions? (PPT 15.3)

A union is an organization that represents employees' interests to management on issues such as wages, hours, and working conditions. Generally, employees seek to join a union when they (1) are dissatisfied with aspects of their job, (2) feel a lack of power or influence with management in terms of making changes, and (3) see unionization as a solution to their problems.

A.The Origins of U.S. Labor Unions

Unions, as we know them today, were largely unprotected by law in the U.S. until 1935. By the Great Depression (1930s), millions of workers lost their jobs as employers cut production costs. Consequently, unions were widely supported. In recent years, however, the public perception has changed dramatically.

B.The Role of the Manager in Labor Relations

Managers are on the front lines in dealing with employee or labor-management matters. When a union enters the picture, labor relations specialists are hired to resolve grievances, negotiate a labor contract, and to advise top management on labor relations strategy.

II.Labor Relations and The Legal Environment

Labor relations policy is based on three laws: the Wagner Act (the National Labor Relations Act, NLRA, of 1935); the Taft-Hartley Act (Labor Management Relations Act, LMRA, of 1947); and the Landrum-Griffin Act (Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, LMRDA, of 1959).

A.The Wagner Act (PPT 15.4)

The National Labor Relations Act, or the Wagner Act, was passed in 1935. It established the NLRB and five illegal labor practices:

1.Interfering with employee rights to form unions
2.Interfering with the administration of a union
3.Discriminating against union members
4.Discriminating against an employee who has filed charges under the act 5.Refusing to bargain with the union.

B.The Taft-Hartley Act (PPT 15.5)

This act was passed in 1947 to limit some of the powers that unions had acquired under the Wagner act. It established six unfair labor practices for unions:

1.Coercing employees
2.Causing the employer to discriminate against non-union members 3.Refusing to bargain in good faith
4.Secondary boycotts
5.Excessive dues

C.The Landrum-Griffin Act (PPT 15.6)

This act was passed in 1959 to give rights and protections to union members from their union leadership. It established five key provisions:

1.Bill of rights for union members
2.Unions must have a constitution
3.A union must report its financial activities
4.Elections are regulated by the government
5.Fiduciary responsibility of union leaders

III.Labor Relations in The United States (PPT 15.7-15.12)

Labor relations in the U.S. evolved from within the capitalist economic structure. The key factors that characterize labor relations in this country are business unionism, unions structured by type of job, collective bargaining, labor contracts, adversarial labor-management relations, and increased unionism in the public sector.

A.Business Unionism

Unions in the...
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