Topics in Labor Relations
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 collectivebargaining. com, 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 significant and widespread law affecting labor relations in the private sector is the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.
This law is also known as the Wagner Act, named for Senator Robert F. Wagner, the man who championed it. In a nutshell this law protects employees’ rights to form and participate in labor unions. The book, Labor Relations: Striking a Balance identifies the central provisions of the Act. These provisions include the establishment of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which answers representation questions and settles unfair labor practice claims. The act gives workers the right to form unions and bargain collectively.
It identifies five unfair labor practices and “establishes exclusive representation for unions that have majority support and grants them rights of collective bargaining over wages, hours of employment and other conditions of employment” (Budd, 2010, pp. 119-121). The law also made it illegal for companies to fire employees for forming or joining unions and prohibited company managed unions. A news release on the NLRB website demonstrates a real life example of a potential violation of the NLRA.
The news release describes how well known aircraft manufacturer, the Boeing Company has decided to establish a second non-union production line for its 787 Dreamliner airplanes. This normally wouldn’t be an issue but the company’s main production line is in a union facility. Boeing stated that the reason they decided to use the non-union plant was because of previous strikes and the possibility of more strikes occurring in the future. The union for Boeing’s employees filed a complaint which the NLRB investigated.
The investigation revealed a violation of the NLRA likely occurred because Boeing management had made intimidating comments to workers regarding past strikes which, in conjunction with setting up a second production line in a non-union facility, could be interpreted as retaliation for the strikes and an attempt to discourage future strikes (National labor Relations Board; Office of Public Affairs, 2012). Since it is legal for private sector strikes, it is wrong for the company to discriminate against the unionized workers by giving work to a non-union plant.
If the company doesn’t stop the move to a second production line they will face a hearing before an NLRB judge. In the ten years following establishment of the NLRA, unions grew strong and many where led by corrupt bosses. This was because the NLRA focused on employer’s acceptance of unions and collective bargaining. It gave no direction or guidance for union behavior. To many it seemed like the NLRA had given unions the upper hand. The Taft-Hartley Act was passes in 1947 to amend the NLRA and balance fairness between unions and employers.
It included restrictions on union actions, enhanced rights of individuals and employers, and new dispute resolution procedures (Budd, 2010, p. 127-129). In addition, the Taft-Hartley Act prohibits employers from giving money or other items of value to union officials. Likewise, it is a crime for union officials to accept or demand these items from employers. In the 1950s, International Longshoreman’s Association President Joseph Ryan was found guilty of taking an annual monetary stipend from an employer (Jacobs, 2006, p. 117). Another example of a violation of this portion of the act is found n the Federal bureau of Investigation website. According to a press release, brothers Nick and Paul Maddalone were in cahoots with an organized crime family which placed them in multiple positions of power within Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union (Local 1181). Local 1181 represents transit workers who provide school bus services to New York City. Apparently the brothers got compensated for making union decisions, influencing union activities and turning a blind eye to contract violations which benefitted the crime family (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2009).
The NLRA and the Taft-Hartley Act each came and answered issues relevant at the time they were established. Before the NLRA, employees were at a disadvantage. Many worked in dismal conditions, received low wages and did not have a voice. The NLRA drove changes to improve things for employees but eventually swayed the balance of power in favor of unions. The Taft-Hartley Act was established to give guidance for union activities and re-balance the employer-employee relationship. Still, more adjustments to the system were needed as more information surfaced about labor movement corruption.
Similar to the Local 1181 incident discussed above, more instances of mafia infiltration and corrupt union leaders were coming to light. So in 1959, the Landrum-Griffin Act was passed to stop the corruption and promote democracy within unions. The Landrum-Griffin Act focused on internal union affairs and created a bill of rights that guaranteed the right of equal participation. It also made it mandatory for unions to adopt by laws and established mandatory reporting which included giving names, titles and salaries of union officers to the Department of Labor.
Reportable items also include loans made to union officers, amount of fees and dues, procedure for auditing financial records, trusteeships, and the amount of loans given to union officials. The act establishes provisions for conducting union elections, safeguards for labor organizations and items that must be reported to employers (Budd, 2010, p. 132-134). In short, the Act deterred corruption by making it easier to identify and by establishing rules that prevented it. An article in the Los Angeles Times, describes a violation of the Landrum-Griffin Act.
When Sheet Metal Workers International suggested a dues increase to relieve their financial problems, elected business agent of Local 75, Edward Lynn, was against it. He felt that the best solution was to decrease local elected officials’ pay because it was higher than other local unions’ pay. When the proposal to increase dues was voted against at the local union, a representative from Sheet Metal Workers International fired Mr. Lynn because he had been outspoken about his opposition to the increase.
Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled that it was a violation of the Landrum-Griffin Act to fire an elected official for opposing a dues increase (Weinstein, 1989). Just as the NLRA and Taft-Hartley Acts made much needed changes to labor relations, so did the Landrum-Griffin Act. I believe the rules and checks and balances this law places on unions holds them accountable for their actions and protects individual union members from unfair treatment within the internal workings of unions. The first major issue or subject that is a component of the collective bargaining process is compensation.
This area may include the terms of profit sharing, wages, vacation and holidays as well as shift premiums. The second subject area is personnel policies and procedures which are comprised of details on layoff, promotion and transfer policies. This subject also includes guidelines for overtime and vacation rules. The next major subject is employee rights and responsibilities which cover seniority rights, workplace rules and job standards. The fourth subject is employer rights and responsibilities which includes management rights, just cause discipline and discharge, subcontracting and safety standards.
The next subject is Union rights and responsibilities. This includes recognition as a bargaining agent, bulletin board, union security, dues checkoff, shop stewards and no strike clauses. Finally the last potential component in collective bargaining is dispute resolution and ongoing decision making. Grievance procedure, committees, consultation and renegotiation procedures are all part of this topic (Budd, 2010, p. 13). All of the subject areas given above are terms and conditions of employment that a collective bargaining unit or team may discuss and come to an agreement about.
The NLRB has separated bargaining items into three separate categories; mandatory, permissive and illegal. Mandatory items that must be addressed by the collective bargaining unit include wages, bonus plans, health insurance payments, pension contributions, work schedules, vacations, and seniority provisions, just cause disciplinary provisions, grievance arbitration, food prices in the company cafeteria, lie detector and drug tests, subcontracting, and effects of plant closings. The permissive category includes all items that are not in the mandatory category and are not illegal.
Some examples of permissive items are union representation on the board of directors, drug and alcohol screening for applicants, benefits for retirees, interest arbitration, bargaining unit expansion, contract ratification procedures, and plant closing. The illegal category includes everything that is illegal to include bargaining over closed shop provisions, policies that involve racial discrimination, and wages below minimum rate (Budd, 2010, pp. 240). In the United States, once these items are decided on, they are written into a contract.
This makes the agreement legally binding and gives a record of what was agreed upon. There is an interesting article at the Major League Baseball (MLB). com website which outlined the details of the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLB players association. It was interesting to see how sports related issues fit into the collective bargaining subject areas addressed above. The compensation piece was pretty standard. It covered minimum major and minor league salary increases over the period of the contract as well as terms of revenue sharing.
Employee responsibilities were addressed in participation rules. Specifically, players selected must play in the all-star game. Finally, employer responsibilities included safety measures which mandated use of head gear and prohibited the use of low density maple bats (DiComo, 2011). Las Angeles based news station KTLA reported on the collective bargaining agreement between grocery store owners and approximately 62,000 employees who work in three of south California’s largest supermarket chains. The agreement was reached after 8 months of talks and threats of strikes that threatened to close down two of the chains.
The sticking point in the agreement was the owners’ failure to provide a comprehensive outline of proposed compensation and employee rights/responsibility items. Finally, the bargaining unit reached an agreement on healthcare, pensions, wages, all compensations, and work place rules, a component of employee rights and responsibilities (Yost, C. , 2011). Both articles summarized above give examples of compensation and employee right and responsibility components in collective bargaining agreements. This indicates, not surprisingly, that these two components are very important and common in agreements.
In fact the specific details of these components are all mandatory bargaining items. The first step in establishing a union in the workplace is to initiate an organization drive. This can be done by employees or the union but it is illegal for an employer. Most of the time employees will initiate the drive, by contacting a union representative, because they have a vested interest in making the work environment and conditions of employment better. Unions initiate drives to increase membership and their ability to represent existing employees.
An example of this is when United Auto Workers attempt to unionize Honda’s nonunion plants in the United States to increase or maintain their bargaining power in the industry (Budd, 2010, p. 188). Unions may also initiate opportunistic drives to convert dissatisfied employees that do not fit into the existing membership. An article about union organizing drives describes many techniques already covered in this assignment and some that I was not aware of. For example, union representatives may recruit a group of employees in the company.
These individuals spread the word about the union and attempt to get enough support to gain a majority vote in favor of unionization. In addition, I found it surprising that some unions will actual send a representative to seek employment in the company. When hired, that person spreads the word about the union to get support (Hunter, 1999). The second step in the process is to build support for unionization by informing employees what the union can do for them. During this step organizers distribute and collect signed authorization cards which give an indication of the majorities’ wishes.
The third step is based on the number of authorization cards. If over 50% of employees signed the cards, organizers request voluntary recognition from the employer. It is within the employer’s right to refuse voluntary recognition (Budd, 2010, pp. 191). If this happens or if only 30% to 50% of employees signed cards, organizers must file an election petition with the NLRB (Budd, 2010, pp. 193). Another alternative to voluntary recognition or filing an election petition is to conduct a recognition strike. In the past recognition strikes were conducted to force a company to take notice of the union.
These strikes resulted in bloodshed and many lost lives. Despite labor laws that govern recognition and certification of unions, recognition strikes are still legal but rarely used (Budd, 2010, pp. 191). When the NLRB receives the petition for election they use the definition of relevant jobs proposed by the petitioner to determine the appropriateness of the unit. This means that the unit proposed to represent the employees should be the employer unit, craft unit, plant unit or some other unit that is in the same community of interest as the workers (Budd, 2010, pp. 93-194). This process is the fourth step. The fifth step is the election. To carry out the election, representatives from the NLRB come to the work site and administer secret ballots. They carefully monitor the process and count the ballots to determine if the majority of employees want union representation (Budd, 2010, pp. 197) The NLRA of 1935 identified employer unfair labor practices to clarify illegal employer actions and make organizing and bargaining more effective (Budd, 2010, p. 123).
The first unfair labor practice is found in section 8(a) (1) and is described as interference, restraint, or coercion that undermines section 7 of the act. Employers commit an unfair labor practice under this rule if they circulate an antiunion petition, conduct unnecessary surveillance of the union, threaten employees with job loss or demotion for supporting a union, give employees special benefits if they denounce the union, question employees about their feelings or involvement in the union, and prevent employees from talking about the union or wearing union patches or pins that do not interfere with working (Budd, 2010, pp. 23). Section 8 (a) (2) is described as domination of labor organization. It prohibits the employer from starting a union, providing monetary support to a union, creating a plan to represent nonunion employees, and creating a labor-management committee (Budd, 2010, pp. 123). The purpose of this rule is to prevent employers from influencing or determining employee representation. This rule also safeguards employees against sham company unions, set up in an attempt to minimally comply with labor laws (Budd, 2010, pp. 116).
Section 8 (a) (3) prohibits discrimination to encourage or discourage union membership. It includes firing union supporters, transferring union supporters to a worse job or union opponents to better jobs, refusing to hire someone because of past union involvement, and closing part of the company for antiunion reasons (Budd, 2010, pp. 123). In short, this law protects employees and potential employees from being treated unfairly because of their association and involvement with a labor union. Two violations of labor practices are identified in NLRB vs.
Gissel Packing Company. In this case, Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America initiated an organization drive for Gissel employees which resulted in a majority vote via authorization cards in support of unionization. As was their right, Gissel refused to voluntarily recognize the union and began an antiunion campaign which was against the law. Specifically Giselle violated section 8 (a) (1) by coercing employees and section 8 (a) (3) for firing two employees because of their association with the union (United States Supreme Court, 1969).
These actions are clearly an attempt to discourage organized labor at the packing company. “Consequently, the Board ordered the companies to cease and desist from their unfair labor practices, to offer reinstatement and back pay to the employees who had been discriminatorily discharged, to bargain with the Unions on request, and to post the appropriate notices” (United States Supreme Court, 1969). . The Gissel case also identified that extreme coercion of employees could result in a failed representation election.
This was determined when the Supreme Court considered three similar cases in conjunction with NLRB vs. Gissel Packing Company. In two of the instances recognition elections were held and failed after a majority return of authorization cards (United States Supreme Court, 1969). The companies’ threats and antiunion campaigns were thought to have influenced the employees’ votes. Because of this case, the Gissel Bargaining Order was established.
This provision allows the NLRB to issue an order requiring an employer to recognize and bargain with a union without the election results that are normally required. This is only done in rare cases when “the NLRB believes that the union had majority support but extreme employer misconduct has eroded this support and has also been so pernicious as to make an election pointless” (Budd, 2010, pp. 218). A real life example of a violation of section 8(a) (2) can be found in the NLRB decision against Kesser Brass Company.
In this case the vice president (VP) of the company reformed an employee-manned grievance committee, determined the number of personnel who would sit on the committee, compensated members for serving on the committee, established guidelines for elections and operations, and determined the committee’s meeting time and place. In addition management influenced the decision of the committee regarding two discharge grievances. In both cases, the committee’s original recommendation was to reinstate the employees.
However after management provided further evidence and recommended against reinstatement the employees were not re-hired. For these reasons the NLRB found the company guilty of unlawful domination of a lobar organization and directed it to dissolve the committee. When you read the board’s rationale for their decision, it seems the VP of Kesser may not have intentionally violated this rule but it’s clear that he did. The cases summarized above give good examples and justification for having laws that protect employees from unfair labor practices.
Arbitration is a dispute resolution process that involves an impartial third party who determines a binding resolution to a dispute between two parties. In regards to labor disputes, an arbitrator is usually someone who has extensive knowledge of labor relations gained through years of experience. Most arbitrators are self-employed fulltime workers or part time workers who have second jobs. Many started off as lawyers or university professors (Budd, 2010, pp. 286). It is very important that arbitrators can be fair and impartial to avoid conflicts of interest and maintain ethical standards.
The two types of cases that are heard by labor relations Arbitrators are interest and grievance arbitration cases. In interest cases, disputes involving terms and conditions of employment are resolved and usually result in changes to the contract. In fact, the arbitrators for these cases are usually contract writers (Budd, 2010, pp. 288). In grievance disputes, the arbitrator considers the rights of the parties involved. This involves being able to interpret the terms of the contract to determine disposition of cases (Budd, 2010, pp. 317).
In both interest and grievance arbitration the finding is binding and must be adhered to. In response to alleged promotion corruption within a Boston Massachusetts probation department, a state judge ruled in favor of the National Association of Government Employees union and ordered a review of 11 promotions within the department that were thought to be politically influenced. The promotions will be examined by an arbitrator who will determine if the promotions were given to the most qualified and deserving employees (Smith, 2012). Whatever resolution the arbitrator decides will be binding.
The article was very interesting. Normally arbitrators are used as a last resort, after other attempts have been made to resolve the issue. They are selected by management or labor representatives but in this case the arbitrator was selected by the court. A collective bargaining agreement contains terms and conditions of employment to include compensation, employee and employer rights and responsibilities, personnel policies and procedures, union rights and responsibilities, and dispute resolution and ongoing decision making terms. Some of these items are considered mandatory while others are optional.
When all items under consideration have been decided upon, they are included in a labor contract. This contract becomes the tool by which the collect bargaining agreement is administered. Since contracts can be ambiguous and difficult to interpret, conflicts over application, interpretation, and enforcement often occur. Contract administration is carried out by “interpreting, applying and resolving conflicts regarding collective bargaining agreements” (Budd, 2010, pp. 302, 313). The process for doing this is through grievance procedures that are written into the contract.
Normally the contract will include a step-by-step process for addressing grievances. The process may vary from contract to contract but typically the first step in the process is for the employee to discuss his/her problem with a supervisor. The second step involves a representative from the union and management attempting to resolve the grievance. Step three is pretty much the same as step two except that it involves higher level representatives. If the issue is solved at any step in the process the matter is closed and does not progress to the next step. After step three, if not resolved, the grievance is sent to arbitration.
There is a grievance web page for the American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers Local 6075. This is the union that represents faculty at Wayne State University. It identified what constitutes a grievance per the labor contract as “a complaint, claim, or dispute arising under and during the term of this Agreement. Grievances are limited to matters of interpretation or application of express provisions of this Agreement except those provisions that are specifically excluded from the grievance procedure” (Grievance procedures, 2009).
The web page also included the contract’s steps for grievance resolution. These steps were very similar to those identified above except in step two the complaint was formal and written. Also during this step the employees have the right to union or personal council (Grievance procedures, 2009). One of the best parts of labor contracts are the procedures given to resolve grievances. This makes it clear to management and employees alike what actions should be taken to resolve issues. The decertification process is very similar to the certification process. It involves collecting signature on a petition for decertification.
If at least 30% of union members sign the petition a request to conduct a decertification election is sent to the NLRB (Center for union facts, 2012). If the decertification election reveals the majority of union members no longer want union representation, the union is decertified and can no longer represent the workers (Budd, 2012, pp. 192). This type of election cannot be conducted within one year of a valid collective bargaining agreement going into effect (Center for union facts, 2012). An election known as a raid election gives employees a choice between the current union, a new union, or no union (Budd, 2012, pp. 92). There are an astounding number of articles on the internet about sports league unions. An article about the NBA union’s decertification explains that dissolving the union allows team members to sue the league on antitrust grounds. This can be done because without the union there is no collective bargaining agreement to protect the league (Tenuto, 2011). The decertification of the NBA union is different from a decertification in a manufacturing plant or other normal business. This is because it appears to be a move to gain leverage to force the league to meet player’s demands.
Typical union decertifications are due to unions not doing a good job, or employees not feeling a need for the union. References Budd, J. W. (2010). Labor Relations: Striking a Balance (3rd ed. ). NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin. Center for union facts. (2012). How to decertify your union. Retrieved from http://www. unionfacts. com/union-member-resources/how-to-decertify-your-union. Collective bargaining fact sheet. (2010). American Federation of Labor – Congress Industrial Organizations Retrieved from http://collectivebargainingfacts. com/ DiComo, A. (2011, November 22).
Key points of collective bargaining agreement. Retrieved from http://mlb. mlb. com/news/article. jsp? ymd=20111122&content_id=26026776 Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2009, June 03). Two former executive board members of bus drivers’ union arrested for extortion and unlawful labor payments. Retrieved from http://www. fbi. gov/newyork/press-releases/2009/nyfo060309. htm Hunter, R. P. (1999, August 24). Michigan labor law: What every citizen should know the union organizing drive. Retrieved from http://www. mackinac. org/2318. Jacobs, J.