Essay Preview: Labor Relations
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Unions have been a part of American history because the early settlers and immigrants came to this country in the 1700s. As the country was starting to establish itself there was a large need for skilled craftsmen to construct buildings, houses and, schools. At this time it was common for these skilled craftsmen to be members of unions. The purpose of the unions has been always to use the collective power of many to leverage the management and owners of a business to obtain better working conditions and better pay. The following discussion will define unions and labor relations and their impact on organizations. The discussion will also examine the impact of changes in employee relations strategies, policies, and practices on organizational performance and unionization. The final phase of the discussion will demonstrate an understanding of: campaigns, elections, contract negotiations, grievance handling, arbitrations, labor relations, and strikes.
According to Noe, Hollenbeck, Gehardt, and Wright (2004) unions are defined as “organizations formed for the purpose of representing their members interests in dealing with employers.” The majority of workers in the United States enjoy a reasonably competitive job market. This means that most workers will individually shop their skills and experience to prospective employers and jobs. In turn, employers will negotiate a compensation package that is competitive and attractive to the employee. However, in some cases the competitive job market is nonexistent usually because of an abundance of available workforce or the skills required for the jobs are not specialized. This type of situation creates a lack of leverage for the workers who management can and will take advantage by lowering wages and reducing benefits. When workers believe they have lost their ability to negotiate their only hope is to band together and form a labor union.
It is inevitable that there is always going to be disagreements between what management thinks is good for the company and what workers believe is fair. When workers form labor unions they create an entity that will represent them and their best interests at the bargaining table. Unions offer workers and management a method for negotiating contracts and resolving conflicts between management and workers. As labor unions have become more prevalent in the United States a need to develop specialty training for dealing with union and management relations became apparent. According to Noe, Hollenbeck, Gehardt, and Wright (2004) “this specialty, called labor relations, emphasizes skills that managers and union leaders can use to foster effective labor-management cooperation, minimize costly forms of conflict (such as strikes), and seek win-win solutions to disagreements.”
The formation of labor unions can positively and negatively impact the performance of an organization. For this reason, it is important for organizations to implement skillfully labor relations that will positively influence successful outcomes. Many experts have debated the effects of unions on organizational performance. Many people have the opinion that unions negatively affect productivity due to the work rules, limits and, restrictions imposed by union contracts. As well, union strikes and organized work slowdowns can also negatively affect the productivity of an organization.
Unions can also have a positive influence on productivity. Unions positively influence a company because of reduced employee turnover and by providing a system for employees to have his or her grievances heard and addressed. Unions also emphasize the importance of seniority, which helps to reduce competition between employees and increases the cooperative spirit. As well some believe that unions bring about improved management policies that increase employee