1. Define the term “collective bargaining” and list and describe four issues that are mandatory components of a collective bargaining agreement. Efficiency, equity, and voice, these are the three primary objectives of labor relations, of employees, and even of some management employees. Workers seem to lean more towards equity and voice at the workplace, while management usually prefers efficiency. The complicated part is attempting to balance all three for an overall idyllic medium at the workplace for both employers and employees. One of the most encouraging guidelines that should be taken in attaining this balancing act would be through collective bargaining. Collective bargaining is a process of negotiating an agreement regarding the terms and conditions of employment through a system of shared responsibility and decision-making between labor and management (Budd 11-12).
During a collective bargaining period, workers’ representatives approach the employer and attempt to negotiate a contract which both sides can agree upon, terms can typically be about wages, hours, promotions, benefits, and other employment components as well as procedures for handling disputes arising under it. An example that can better explain the importance of a collective bargaining is in an article called “Teachers’ union sues Middleton-Cross Plains school district”, (http://host.madison.com/news/local/education/local_schools/teachers-union-sues-middleton-cross-plains-school-district/article_d169fd40-5996-11e0-9c87-001cc4c03286.html), the author discusses how the union representing teachers in the Middleton-Cross Plains School District sued the district Monday over their collective bargaining negotiations.
According to the complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court, the union said the district “bargained in bad faith” and proposed non-negotiable contract changes including removal of just cause for discipline and discharge, total district discretion of work hours, elimination of seniority protections, elimination of fair share union dues, modifications/freezes on salary schedules and elimination of compensatory time off. The union also objected to the district proposal that the School Board be the final step in the grievance procedure as opposed to having a third-party arbitrator as the current agreement states (Kittner, 2011). In this article, we see how the teacher’s union could not effectively negotiate an agreement regarding the terms and conditions of employment with the Cross Plain school district and had to sue for a good-faith collective bargaining agreement. According to our textbook, four issues that are mandatory components of a collective bargaining agreement are as follow: (Budd 11-12) Compensation:
Wages and benefits
Vacations and holidays
Employee Rights and responsibilities:
Employer rights and responsibilities:
Just cause discipline and discharge
Subcontracting and safety standard
Dispute resolution and ongoing decision making:
Committees and consultation
The two mandatory components of a collective bargaining agreement I would like to discuss in more detail are employee rights and grievance procedures. According to our textbook one of the four types of employees’ rights frequently granted in union contract is “just cause discipline and discharge”, an employee can be disciplined and discharged only for “cause” or “just cause”. As such, employees have the right to insist there be valid, job-related for reasons for discipline and dismissal (Budd 310).
In an article called “Is Poor Performance “Just Cause” for Discharge?”, provides a good example of employees’ rights “just cause discipline and discharge. The article discusses how the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in favor of an employer who had discharged an employee for poor performance. The court ruled that the employees’ poor performance constituted a “breach of duty reasonably owed the employer” which is one of the seven reasons that constitute “just cause” for discharge under Indiana law and contracts (Lyman, 2012). The article also discusses how employer tried to improve the employees’ behavior. “The employee’s supervisors repeatedly discussed with employee the mistakes…but the mistakes “would happen over, and over, and over again.” Co-workers had continuing problems with the employee where she would always blame others for her problems. Despite counseling on multiple occasions, she showed no improvement” (Lyman, 2012).
The second mandatory component of a collective bargaining agreement I would like to discuss, is grievance procedures. According to our textbook, a grievance is generally defined as a claim by an employee that he or she is adversely affected by the misinterpretation or misapplication of a written company policy or collectively bargained agreement. To address grievances, employers typically implement a grievance procedure (Budd 321). Most collective bargaining agreements include procedures for filing and resolving grievances. An article from the Daily Freeman News called “Saugerties school board wants grievance discussion with teachers’ union instead of arbitration” (http://www.dailyfreeman.com/general-news/20140215/saugerties-school-board-wants-grievance-discussion-with-teachers-union-instead-of-arbitration), discusses a grievance raised during a Board of Education meeting which involves a guidance counselor in the junior high school who has 329 students, which exceeds the 250 maximum student load.
The union, in filing its grievance, asked that the student load be reduced and the counselor receive additional pay for the period in which it exceeded 250 (Zangla, 2014). Within a union environment, the processes will typically involve the employee, union representatives and members of the employer’s management team. The article goes into detail how they will be meeting and try to avoid arbitration. “Board President George Heidcamp said trustees want to resolve the grievance with the teachers’ union without going to arbitration, which could cost taxpayers $10,000 or more” (Zangla, 2014). In summary, collective bargaining centers on the basic components of the system where employees, employers and union members meet in order to find what works best and find a solution.
A key note to successful collective bargaining is the state of affairs and persons who are entrusted to negotiate should have the traits of patience, trustworthiness, friendliness, integrity, and fairness. Collective bargaining through its mandatory components have enabled many unions and labor management to either agree or take the next steps in trying to get a fair and profitable agreement for both parties.
Budd, John W. Labor Relations: Striking a Balance. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2013. Print. Kittner, Gena. Teachers’ union sues Middleton-Cross Plains school district. 28 Mar 2011. Web. 19 Apr 2014. . Lyman, Stephen W. Is Poor Performance “Just Cause” for Discharge? 31 Aug 2012. Web. 19 Apr 2014. . Zangla, Ariel. Saugerties school board wants grievance discussion with teachers’ union instead of arbitration. 15 Feb 2014. Web. 19 Apr 2014. .
2. List and discuss three U.S. laws that support collective bargaining, and three examples of employer unfair labor practices.
We have learned that collective bargaining is the negotiations involving the representatives of labor and management for terms and conditions of employment that will apply to the employee. It is also important to understand labor laws that support collective bargaining that protect union activity to balance efficiency, equity and voice. According to our textbook, the three U.S. laws that support collective bargaining between labor and management, are the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (The Wagner Act), the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (The Taft-Hartley Act), and Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (The Landrum- Griffin Act) (Budd 109).
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935, also known as the Wagner Act builds upon previous legislative attempts to promote and protect workers’ abilities to unionize in the private sector if they so choose. It guarantees the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively with their employers, and to engage in other protected organized activity. Employees covered by the Act are also protected from certain types of employer and union misconduct. (Budd 119). In an interesting Wall Street Journal article called “Volkswagen’s Union Gamble” (http://www.no2uaw.com/vws-gamble.html), provides a good example of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) at work. The article discusses how Volkswagen and the United Auto Workers union are trying to get workers from Chattanooga, TN plant to vote on unionizing.
According to the article, “Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga are voting this week on whether to become the first foreign-owned unionized auto plant in the American South. The United Auto Workers union desperately needs the victory and is getting help from the National Labor Relations Board and even from Volkswagen, which may come to regret selling out their workers to the union” (WSJ, 2014). The editorial also goes into detail how the UAW tried to sidestep a secret-ballot election via a dubious “card check.” There logic for this was due to the fact that the Wagner Act allows a union to be certified if a majority of workers sign authorization cards and an employer acquiesces. Unfortunately, the workers argue that non-union plants have lower production costs, more workforce flexibility and less labor strife.
They also argue “Volkswagen’s un-neutral “neutrality agreement” with the UAW is arguably a violation of Taft-Hartley’s prohibition on employers giving a “thing of value” to a union seeking to organize its employees” and filed charges with the NLRB alleging that the UAW had lied to workers and bullied them into signing cards (WSJ, 2014). The debate about Volkswagen’s violation of the Taft-Hartley Act is ongoing and it takes us to our second U.S. laws that support collective bargaining.
The Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, which is also known as the Taft-Hartley Act amends and adds to the Wagner Act in diverse and far-reaching ways and can be divided into three categories, “Restrictions on union actions, Enhanced rights of individuals and employers, and New dispute resolution procedures” (Budd 128). The purpose and policy of the Taft-Hartley Act was “to prescribe the legitimate rights of both employees and employers, to provide orderly and peaceful procedures for preventing the interference by either with the legitimate right of the other, to protect the rights of individual employees in their relations with labor organizations and to protect the rights of the public in connection with labor disputes affecting commerce” (Budd 127).
The act also empowers the U.S. president to petition a court to suspend a strike deemed a national security strike (Budd 128). In an article from the New York Times called “Dockworkers Strike Threatens to Close the East Coast Ports” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/27/business/dockworkers-strike-threatens-to-close-east-coast-ports.html?_r=0), discusses how “dockworkers are flexing their muscles again, threatening a strike that would shut seaports from Massachusetts to Texas. It would be the first such coast wide strike since a two month walkout in 1977 that paralyzed the flow of tens of billions of dollars of imports – and the nation’s retailers and other businesses fear a painful replay if the 14,500 dockworkers make good on their threats” (Greenhouse, 2012).
The strike threat has so alarmed corporate America that of more than 100 business groups which wrote to President Obama to urge him to intervene to push the two sides to settle – and, if need be, to invoke his emergency powers under the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act to bar a strike (Greenhouse, 2012). Eventually the strike was averted, the two sides agreed to sit down with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to discuss extending the long shore workers’ contract, during which time both negotiations and port operations would continue.
Another U.S. law that supports collective bargaining is the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (The Landrum- Griffin Act) deals with the relationship between a union and its members. The Landrum- Griffin creates a bill of rights for union members that guarantees all union members equal rights of participation in internal union affairs, including voting and expressing views” (Budd 131). Part of the bill of rights of this act specifically mentions that all union members are entitled to receive a copy of the collective bargaining agreement. Additionally, the Landrum-Griffin Act tries to hinder corruption and racketeering in three ways. “First, unions and their officer are required to disclose financial records by filing reports with the U.S. Department of Labor. Second, the Landrum-Griffin act restricts the use of union trusteeships.
Third, the Landrum-Griffin Act establishes the fiduciary responsibility of union leaders” (Budd 132-133). In a Wall Street Journal article titled “Obama Tries to Stop Union Disclosure” asserts how union membership peaked in the 1950s, when more than one-third of American workers belonged to a union. Approximately just about 7.6% of American private-sector workers belong to a union. A Rasmussen Research survey conducted in March found that 81% of nonunion members do not want to belong to a union. (WSJ, 2009). The response by union leaders and their Democratic allies to declining union membership is the Employee Free Choice Act. To increase unionization, it would deprive workers of private balloting in organizing elections, and it would substitute a signature-card process that would expose workers to coercion.
The bill would also deny workers the right to ratify, or not ratify, labor contracts drafted by government arbitrators when negotiations in newly unionized workplaces exceed the bill’s rigid timetable (WSJ, 2009). Unfortunately, we see that instead of the democratic government abiding by the Landrum-Griffin Act, it is trying to create laws to appeal some of the current laws that protect union members from the unions or government. In the three above cases, the U.S. laws support collective bargaining, as well as protect from employer unfair practices.
An unfair labor practices are defined according to our textbook as an illegal employers’ actions (Budd 122). The Wagner Act or the National Labor Relations Act has specific guidelines that both employees and employers must follow in order to maintain a positive work environment. At times, unfair labor practices do occur and place the workers in chaos. One of the unfair labor practice prohibits employers from interfering, restraining, or coercing employees who are exercising their Section 7 rights. Circulating antiunion petitions, using unnecessary surveillance to watch union activities, threatening employees with being fired, demoted, or causing physical harm, and bribing employees with wage increases are examples of Section 8(a)(1) known as the “universal enforcer” because it covers all employer violations of employee rights (Budd 123).
The second unfair labor practice is known as Domination of a Labor Organization or Company Union Ban. Senator Wagner wanted to avoid management “handling” unions, preventing workers from forming legitimate, independent unions. Employers that initiate the formation of a union, provide financial support to a union, create a nonunion employee representation plan, or create a labor-management committee that discusses wages and working conditions with some give and take with management is in direct violation of Section 8(a)(2) (Budd 123-124). The third unfair labor practice deals with employers discriminating to encourage or discourage union membership. Examples include firing a union supporter or someone trying to form a union, transferring a union supporter to a less desirable job or promoting an employee because of opposing a union, refusing to hire a potential employee because of past union participation or simply closing a part of a business because of antiunion reasons are examples of Section 8(a)(3) (Budd 123-124).
A good example of two unfair labor practices is in an article called “1981 Strike Leaves Legacy for American Workers” (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5604656), in which the author discusses how over 30 years ago, former President Ronald Reagan set a defining moment in the history of the aviation, his presidency, and labor relations by firing thousands of unionized air traffic controllers for illegally going on strike. In February 1981, new contract negotiations open between Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which employs the air-traffic controllers. Citing safety concerns, PATCO calls for a reduced 32-hour work week, a $10,000 pay increase for all air-traffic controllers and a better benefits package for retirement. Contract negotiations with the FAA stall (Schalch, 2006).
Then in August 1984, strike action began with 13,000 employees walking off the job in various locations, halting operations as busy airports including Dallas, Fort Worth, Atlanta, and Chicago. At that point, then President Reagan intervened sending a warning statement that anyone not returning to work within 48 hours would be terminated. Two days later most of the striking employees were fired. They were replaced by employees not participating the protests and military air traffic controllers (Schalch, 2006). As I understand the employer unfair practices, the firing of the unionizes traffic controllers and the hiring of new traffic controllers was a direct violation of Sections 8(a)(1) and (3), threatening employees with job loss, firing a union supporter, and promoting a union opponent to a better job.
In conclusion, the three labor laws have shed some much needed light as to the rights of both employers and employees, not to mention has also set some much needed boundaries as to how far each side can go without treading into illegal or unfair territory. These laws must be put into place to regulate both sides equally and it also provides no confusion as to the right and wrong paths one must take when leading to collective bargaining. The examples of unfair labor practices by employers provide a clear view as to the lengths some employers will go to in an attempt to avoid or divert a union being organized. The Wagner Act has specific sections in its law that provides employers the knowledge of what is acceptable behavior and what is not.
Budd, John W. Labor Relations: Striking a Balance. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2013. Print. Greenhouse, Steven. Dockworkers Strike Threatens to Close East Coast Ports. 26 Dec 2012. Web. 22 Apr 2014. . Schalch, Kathleen. 1981 Strike Leaves Legacy for American Workers. 2006 Aug 2006. Web. 22 Apr 2014. . Wall Street Journal (Editorial): Volkswagen’s Union Gamble. 12 Feb 2014. Web. 20 Apr 2014. .
3. Describe the process of establishing and decertifying a collective bargaining unit in the workplace.
As discussed earlier in this research paper, the definition of collective bargaining is technically when a group of employees negotiate as a unit with their employer over pay, benefits and working conditions. Chris Langford, a strategist and organizer at the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), (http://www.ifpte.org/news/details/Why-Collective-Bargaining-Rights-Are-Important), states that the principle stems from the idea that as a group, employees have more strength or bargaining power if they collaborate than they do if they try to negotiate with their employer individually. Because of its basis in collaboration, collective bargaining is inherently a democratic process since a majority of employees select the subjects they bargain over and vote on whether they agree to a contract (Langford, 2012).
In our textbook the author, discusses how a bargaining unit is a group of several workers involved in a similar industry or occupational field that, on the determination of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), can engage in collective bargaining (Budd 199). This group also helps the union represent the other employees in the industry to handle any issues, improprieties, or unfair work ethics or practices that may come to light. To establish a bargaining unit, certain laws and doctrines must be strictly adhered to, the worker group must also have first established an organized union the deals with their specific industry. The union represents the group exclusively, and deals with all negotiations and discussions to further the workers’ causes. Once a union has been formed, the NLRB, looks at several criteria before allowing part of the worker group to be recognized as a bargaining unit.
The NLRB reviews the workers’ mutual interests in working conditions, wages earned, training protocols, and number of hours in a work week. They also look at the management scope, the public interest factor, and the worker group’s history of bargaining in the past through other associations (Budd 200). According to an article called “WNBA and Players Association Sign New Collective Bargaining Agreement” , the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) announced that they have entered into a new eight-year collective bargaining agreement. The new collective bargaining agreement includes an additional 12th roster spot, salary cap increases and reduced revenue sharing thresholds, making it more likely that the players will share in league revenue growth. In the article, we can see how an established a collective bargaining unit represent its specific employees (women basketball players) to conduct collective bargaining with their employers (WNBA, 2014). So what happens if the collective bargaining unit (union) employees no longer want to be represented?
To determine the wishes of the majority of the employees, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) allows employees to call for a special election to get rid of the union as their “exclusive representative.” This is called a Decertification election.