Unionization & Collective Bargaining
Definition: A union is a formal association of workers that promotes the interests of its members though collective action--generally directed at "bread and butter" issues.
Historical Perspective: Early attempts to unionize and to strike were seen as criminal conspiracy actions; however, as a result of the Commonwealth v. Hunt decision in 1842, unions were no longer seen as criminal conspiracies. During the 1970-1980 decades, union membership in the U.S. dropped abruptly, and today represents less than 14% of the total work force; 9.5% of the private work force in 2000, the lowest since the Great Depression. [Unions represented 33% of U.S. workers in 1955 (Mondy & Noe, 1998, 6ed).] Mathis & Jackson (2003) report that of the approximately 120 million U.S. workers, only about 16 million Americans are members of labor unions, a number down from 22 million in the 1970s (Mathis & Jackson, 2000).
Legal Perspective: Before the National Labor Code, the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act were anti-union. Then, in the early 20th century, things began to change.
v Wagner Act (1935) = National Labor Relations Act = also known as the "Magna Carter" of labor because it was very pro-union = established the impartial "umpire" of the organizing process, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and defined unfair labor practices of management.
v Taft-Hartley Act ( 194 7) = Labor Management Relations Act = gave more power back to employers in order to "balance the collective bargaining equation." It provided for "right-to- work" states, prohibited "closed shops," and made "yellow dog contracts" illegal.
The National Labor Code (continued)
v Landrum-Griffin Act ( 1959) = Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act = requires that union management make annual reports to members regarding their finances and other activities so as to protect union members from corrupt union officials. (Remember Jimmy Hoffa & the Teamsters?)
v Civil Service Reform Act (1978) = Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute = allows federal employees to collectively bargain. Today, unionization continues to expand some in the government section; however, government members cannot strike, nor can they negotiate wages.
§ The Federal Labor Relations Authority serves as the "NLRB of the Federal Sector."
ü Remember PACO, the air traffic controllers striking and failing to return to work after President Reagan gave them 48 hours notice to return?
ü More than 11,000 employees lost their jobs!
In addition to the National Labor Code there are two other important items to consider:
· Union Security Agreements: Union security agreements represent different formal techniques used secure and maintain union membership.
v Closed shop - required union membership before being hired; outlawed by the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947
v Union shop -requires that employees join the union following their probationary period; forbidden in right-to-work states by the Taft Hartley Act of 1947. (Membership is maintained through “dues checkoff” practices, which allow for automatic payroll deductions of union dues for all employees under the collective bargaining agreement.)
v Agency shop -requires that non-union members pay union dues and fees (at least that portion of the union dues required to negotiate and administer the labor contract "union representation fee")
v Open shop -no employee is required to join a union
v Maintenance of membership - employees agree to belong to the union for the period covered by their collective bargaining agreement, but then may change their minds about membership during the next agreement period
· Union Types: Unions are formed to represent specific types of workers.
v Industrial unions represent individuals who work in the same industry or company, regardless of the specific job held by the member.
v Craft unions represent individuals who are employed in one type of work, which generally required specialized skills or training.
v Public sector unions represent individuals who are employed in the federal government, or in state or municipal jobs.
o All federal workers and most state/municipal employees are prohibited from striking.
o Federal employees cannot bargain over wages; politics and taxes can play a role in dollars available for employees.
o Public section unionization has been increasing, while private sector numbers have been falling.
Unionization: Written publicity given to employees by unions to convince the employees to sign authorization cards is known as hand billing. This usually begins at the request of employees or when the union identifies an industry or company amenable to unionization.
v On the local level, union policies are normally established by a secret ballot of members of the local.
v The lowest elected officer in a union is the union steward.
v The full-time elected official at the local union level is called a business agent.
v Authorization cards are signed by at least 30% of eligible employees to designate a union as the employees' collective bargaining agent.
ü At least 30% of eligible employees must sign cards before an election can be held.
ü If more than 50% sign, no election is required.)
v The election is overseen by the NLRB and requires a majority of votes cast to win representation.
v A bargaining unit is the group of all employees eligible to vote for union representation and is represented by the union.
v Once certified, the union will attempt to negotiate with the employer.
q Note: Decertification, removal of the union, basically follows the same process.
Organizational Perspective: Most companies would rather be non-union.
v The primary reason why employees join unions is dissatisfaction with their employer. The best way for organizations to keep unionization to a minimum is to establish and maintain sound, people-sensitive, management practices.
v The presence of unions results in less employment in the private sector, since pay is almost always higher, which affects employers' ability to pay.
v The effect of unions on productivity generally depends on the state of labor relations in the company.
Organizational Perspective (continued):
v Many unions are encouraging use of ESOP/employee ownership in their companies so they have more control.
v Company managers are generally responsible for administering the labor agreement on a daily basis, but otherwise are prohibited from attempting to wrongly influence--or otherwise work against--the unionization and labor negotiation processes.
v Managers cannot lie to, coerce or restrain employees or the union.
ü Managers can, however, present facts!
ü Management can forbid distribution of union literature in work areas during working hours.
ü Management can tell about and use all legal measures to oppose unionization.
v The best way for unions to sustain is to show that they are sensitive to today's issues and that they can help.
o Many white-collar workers believe that unions are too "blue collar" and cannot represent their needs.
Collective Bargaining: Collective bargaining is an on-going process whereby representatives of management and labor negotiate over wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.
v The most common bargaining structure is one employer with one union.
v Bargaining in good faith implies that negotiators are in a position to bargain and make decisions for their parties
ü After decisions are reached in good faith, neither party can renege on the agreement.
ü After the terms of a labor agreement are negotiated, the union members vote to ratify or accept the agreement. (Ratification is the process where union members vote to accept the terms of the negotiated collective bargaining agreement or labor contract.)
v Mandatory issues are those issues that are identified specifically by labor laws or court decisions as being subject to collective bargaining, and include wages, benefits and working conditions.
v If both parties agree, bargaining over permissive issues is also allowed.
v To preserve the rights of management to manage their organization, most labor contracts include a management rights clause.
v When a large union negotiates in depth with one company and uses that results in another, as in the auto industry, pattern bargaining has occurred.
v The multi-employer, one union structure, used extensively in the steel industry provides a master contract, which applies to all companies involved.
Collective Bargaining Power: Both management and union have power to influence the collective bargaining process.
v Socio-demographic factors will affect the types of proposals made by management and unions; for unions, job security is critical.
v For unions, job security is critical.
v Management must provide appropriate data to the union, if requested.
v The initial demand phase of the bargaining process sets the tone for future negotiations.
ü Distributive bargaining sets a win-lose tone.
ü Integrative bargaining establishes a win-win environment.
v When the union agrees to reduce, wages, benefits, or other factors during collective bargaining, concessionary bargaining has occurred.
ü For example, a two-tier wage structure, one in which new union employees receive lower wages and fewer benefits than existing members, may be accepted in the final negotiation.
v If negotiations wind up in a situation where it appears that the parties will not agree on a settlement, or lock in an impasse.
ü At impasse any of the following may occur:
· Picket: union members continue to work but put pressure on the company by carrying signs around the premises to show their displeasure and to try to get public sympathy.
· Boycott: union members continue to work but put pressure on the company by trying to influence the public not to buy the company's products or services.
· Strike: union members refuse to work to put pressure on the company.
o In cases of impasse, an economic strike generally occurs.
o A wildcat strike is one that does not have the approval of union leadership.
o The number of strikes seen in recent years is declining.
· Lockout: management shuts down company operations to prevent union members from working.
Collective Bargaining and Dispute Resolution: There are several means for settling a dispute. The principle types, which all include third-party intervention include:
v Conciliation: third party attempts to keep the union and management negotiators talking so that they voluntarily can reach a solution.
v Mediation: third party assists the negotiators in their discussions and also makes suggestions for settlement
v Arbitration: third party reviews the facts of the negotiations and makes a decision for the parties. The decision that an arbitrator makes is called an award.
Collective Bargaining and Dispute Resolution (continued):
v Grievances: Grievances are more formalized and they generally follow an established procedure than informal complaints, for which procedures are rarely provided. The grievance procedure, or formal channel of communication used to resolve formal complaints, should go beyond having an "open door policy." Employees must know where to go to be heard so that their grievances will be investigated and rectified: the first step is to discuss the situation with their immediate supervisors but should the process should not stop there.
ü Non-union organizations often called their grievance procedures the "dispute resolution” process.
ü The Weingarten Rights provide unionized employees the right to union representation when they are questioned by management in situations where discipline may result. (In these cases, the union steward is responsible for presenting the grievances to management.)
ü Grievance arbitration is a third-party means of settling disputes arising from different interpretations of the labor contract.
International Perspective: Unionism in the U.S. is different from other countries in the sense that U.S. unions have not been at the forefront of national political trends and also are not as highly regulated by the government as in other countries. Also, when compared to other countries, the U.S. looses considerably less work time.