|Type of paper:||Research paper|
|Categories:||Management Human rights Employment law|
Labor relations is the term used to describe the relationships between the management of a company or organization and its workforce. In a wider context, the term refers to a set of such relations in an industry or in a national economy. Over the years, various strategies to manage the relationships between employers and employees have come up. Unionization of workers is perhaps the most critical development in labor relations. Through unions, workers could demand better wages and working conditions through collective bargaining. Unions have benefited employers and employees alike.
For most organizations, having a unionized workforce is more a constraint than it is a relief. Unions usually result in costs to the organization and can affect the operation efficiency. To avoid such costs, companies use a combination of strategies such as proper leadership, motivation techniques, and implementing desirable workplace policies so that their workers do not feel the need to unionize (Vilas, 2018). When a simple strategy that focuses on the employees is implemented, the staff will not only make union unnecessary in the organization, it will also result in increased productivity and performance of the workforce. Lee (2016) advises that such a strategy should contain four crucial features:
1. Communication- a company should set up a program of interactive communication between the management and the employees such as designated time to speak during meetings or suggestion boxes. Such a program would ensure that every employee gets an equal opportunity to be heard (Karanges et al., 2015). The employees would also want to know what is going on in the company. Therefore, the leaders should keep them informed at all times.
2. Competitive pay and benefits- when the employees are satisfied with the compensation policy used in the company, they are unlikely to form a union. In this regard, compensation should extend beyond regular pay to include employee benefits such as training, bonuses, and leave days among others.
3. Open door management- the supervisors and managers should adopt an open door policy where every employee is free to raise issues and concerns that they feel need to be addressed without a fear of retaliation.
4. Employee trust and recognition- employers need to trust that the employees work in the best interest of the company. When the staff meets or exceeds the set targets, the managers should show recognition and appreciation. The workforce will feel like part of the organization and will in return trust the leaders to work in their best interest.
In the 1950s, unionization of workers was more than 30 percent in the private sector which unfavorably compares to the current unionization rate which stands at approximately seven percent (Katz et al., 2017). The huge decline in unions has affected all the employees resulting in career dissatisfaction and alienation. A study revealed that over the past three and a half decades, the pay for private sector workers has barely budged (Heavey et al. 2013). This is in contrast to the increasing output from the private sector for the same period. Another study found that men were the most affected by the declining union because they are more unionized than women are (Van Caenegem, Taylor, Cleary, & Marshall, 2018). The research maintained that for men without a college degree and who not belong to a labor union, their real wages are significantly lower than they were in the 1970s.
The desire to unionize by the private sector workers is there, but because the unionization rates are very low, many workers do not have an idea of how unions work. Furthermore, many employees still fear the employers' offensive tactics such as threatening union organizers used in the 1970s. The workers are therefore discouraged from joining unions because they do not understand their benefits. As mentioned earlier, male workers without a college degree have been alienated in the private sector with an annual wage loss of about $3.015 (Vilas, 2018). Popular belief is that globalization and automation are the reasons for declining unionization.
On the contrary, lack of unionizing is mostly because of the workers themselves, as they do not wish to join unions. Nonunion employers usually offer salary raises on a regular basis to foster loyalty of their employees. An example of a company that uses this strategy is Kodak in the highly organized New York state. However, the salaries of nonunion workers are still significantly lower than those of unionized workers. Therefore, the declining unionization is resulting in career dissatisfaction through lower wages and worse working conditions.
Companies that have labor unions usually undertake collective bargaining process at some point. Collective bargaining is the process by which the employees, through their representative union members negotiate terms of employment such as better wages or wage increases, improved working conditions, and employee benefits among other things (Katz, Kochan, & Colvin, 2017). The outcomes of the process of the negotiations are commonly referred to as collective bargaining agreements. As expected, the process involves various steps until an agreement is reached. The steps can be divided into pre-negotiation steps, steps during the negotiations, and post-negotiations. This paper focuses on two crucial activities in the pre-negotiation stage namely, examining of the situation and understanding the main issues.
The first activity for a company would be examining its situation. Past negotiations can prove to be helpful in the examination and can act as a reference point. Therefore, the company should review the notes and records from earlier negotiations to understand the situation. If a company is undertaking the collective bargaining process for the first time, information from other organizations can also be helpful. Furthermore, minutes from past meetings, disputes, and conflicts in the company will inform the source of the current issue. This step is crucial in determining the possible directions of the negotiations as well as identifying areas that might result in such employees' concern in the future (Van Caenegem et al., 2018).
Understanding the main issues being raised by the employees is another critical activity in the pre-negotiation stage. Both sides of the negotiation should identify the grievances. The employees, through their union, present their concerns to the management, which seeks to investigate the basis of the issues. When the management is fully aware of the issues, it can formulate the objectives of the negotiations, which will include their demands and the final proposal to address the concerns (Trombetta, 2017). Because every negotiation is different depending on the issues being raised, employer-employee relationship, and the situation of the company, this process should be undertaken every time there is a collective bargaining proceedings. Lack of understanding of the issues will most likely result in the crumbling of the negotiations before workable solutions are reached.
The government is a key player in the economy and its different sectors such as the commodity market and the labor market as a regulator to ensure that favorable conditions prevail to promote economic activity. In the labor market, the laws passed by the government are meant to protect the employees from exploitative employers. According to Katz, Kochan, & Colvin, (2017), impact of the government in labor relations falls under three categories: (1) the influence of labor laws on labor relations, (2) direct interventions through agencies such as National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and Association of Labor Relations Agencies (ALRA), and (3) minimum wage bill.
In the first category, labor laws are meant to ensure that the employees are treated fairly in the workplace. Some of the laws on labor relations include the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which protects the employee from unfair disciplinary action for taking a leave of absence to take care of an ailing family member. Right to unionize is also provided under the National Labor Relations Act. This legislation prohibits employers from preventing the workers from unionizing, unfair labor practices, and protection from collective bargaining processes such as strikes (Katz, 2013).
Labor relations agencies like the ones mentioned above are mandated to ensure that employers comply with all the laws about employer-employee relationships. As such, the agencies have the right to administer and enforce the provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (Lee, 2016). Additionally, employees who feel that their rights have been violated by their employers can report to the different agencies so that they act on their behalf. Therefore, labor agencies represent millions of workers in the United States.
The final way that the government is involved in labor relations is through its minimum wage bill. This bill is aimed at protecting the non-skilled workers who present quite a significant amount of workforce in the country. The bill was first introduced in 1737, which shows that the federal government has influenced labor relations as early as the founding days of the country (Katz, Kochan, & Colvin, 2017). The bill has been changed numerous times over the years as the conditions of the economy change. For instance, at the beginning of this year, the Democrats were pushing to hike the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. Furthermore, the minimum wage bill varies from one state to another.
Rules and regulations to guide the relationships between employers and employees date back to the founding era of the country. Unionization of workers was one of the achievement of the evolution of labor laws. Unfortunately, the number of unions is declining causing dissatisfaction of employees among other effects. However, the government still has control of labor relations through its various agencies and laws to protect the workers from exploitative employers.
Bach, S., & Kolins Givan, R. (2011). Varieties of new public management? The reform of public service employment relations in the UK and USA. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 22(11), 2349-2366.
Haidinger, B., Iannuzzi, F., Sacchetto, D., Lillie, N., & Kall, K. (2018). Enhancing Economic Democracy for Posted Workers: PROMO report. Solidar publications.
Katz, H. C. (2013). Is US public sector labor relations in the midst of a transformation? ILR Review, 66(5), 1031-1046.
Katz, H. C., Kochan, T. A., & Colvin, A. J. (2017). An Introduction to US Collective Bargaining and Labor Relations. Cornell University Press.
Lee, D. (2016). Bundling Alt-Labor: How Policy Reform Can Facilitate Political Organization in Emerging Worker Movements. Harv. CR-CLL Rev., 51, 509.
Trombetta, C. (2017). The Undocumented Workers Dilemma: Improving Workplace Rights for Undocumented Workers through Labor Arbitration and Collective Bargaining. Geo. Immigr. LJ, 32, 127.
Van Caenegem, W., Taylor, M., Cleary, J., & Marshall, B. (2018). Collective bargaining in the agricultural sector.
Vilas, C. M. (2018). Economic restructuring, neoliberal reforms, and the working class in Latin America. In Capital, Power, and Inequality in Latin America (pp. 137-164). Routledge.
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