Human resources are one of the most basic things that keep any organizations’ operations running. Without laborers, everything would be hardly possible. A poorly planned and executed labor development plan would most likely lead to poor labor practices, which would of course affect basically all human resource or labor dependent operation in the organization. More often than not, poor labor and relation development practices lead to significantly impaired productivity levels, which are some of the last things that any manager would want. Knowing the current best practices in the field of labor and relations development is therefore crucial both in the process of attaining and maintaining a stable workforce environment within an organization or on a larger scale, an entire labor market. The objective of this paper is to discuss the basic principles of labor and relations development, specifically, the union structure, membership, organization of campaigns and avoidance, focusing on the review of textbooks, current best evidence, journal articles, related to human resource management and labor and relations development. At the end of the paper, it has been concluded that while labor unions and other conventional ways of managing an entire workforce and attending to various workforce issues may certainly lead to positive results, trying to incorporate contemporary ways which would address the more modern labor union-related issues may lead to comparatively more positive outcomes. Having a good grasp of workforce management and labor union foundations would definitely be a good start in trying to solve issues related to labor and relations development.
The establishment and maintenance of labor and trade unions have always been towards the promotion of organized labor, where all of the members, who would most likely be employees from different sectors in the state’s workforce, use their sheer number to assert their rights and protect them from current and future government policies that serve as a threat to those rights. This only seems to be the one clear and focused purpose of labor unions. For the record, a labor union can have many names, especially in a very contemporary era like this. The use and meaning of the term “labor union” may actually change depending on the country where it is being used. In Europe, for example, labor unions are generally referred to as trade unions or amalgamations.
A labor union is essentially an organization or a group formed by laborers, or using the more politically correct term, workers, who voluntarily decided to band themselves together in order to achieve goals and interests that are common among other members. Usually these goals lead or at least related to the following: protection of the rights and integrity of labor relations and practices—the main trade of workers, propositions to the national or state labor department to increase current levels of wage, petitioning laws and acts (e.g. petitions that would allow or oblige employers to employ a higher minimum number of employees), rules and policies governing the firing, hiring, and promoting of workers, mechanics and policies in receiving benefits, workplace environment and safety, and generally, everything that would lead or relate to better working conditions .
Trade unions can be very different from one another and the extent by which they differ would usually be dictated by the differences in the industry by which they operate . For example, a trade or labor union formed by workers from a certain industry may operate quite differently from another labor union formed by workers from a different industry. The framework that forms the internal structure of the organization remains practically the same though. For example, it is very common for any labor union to appoint a leader and a public relations officer, who would represent the entire union’s decisions, interests, and efforts whenever there are events that would concern the public or whenever the union has to deal with other organizations, either government and non-government, and more importantly with employers. Labor unions often interact with the government-appointed labor department whenever there are issues related to the current minimum wages, and basically everything about requests for adjustments in standard working conditions (e.g. in the United States, the government-appointed labor department is the U.S. Department of Labor). This is so because these departments are basically the ones that serve as the third party that facilitates disputes or disagreements between the labor union and its members, and the employers. The main goal of the department in any dispute between the two is usually to arrive at a compromising situation wherein both the two groups’ interests and rights are bilaterally pursued and protected, respectively .
Aside from interacting with government or state-appointed labor departments, labor unions also deal directly with their employers via their leaders, and some internally-appointed file members. The purpose of the interaction with employers is mainly to discuss what each group wants to get and most of the time, the discussion leads to bargaining scenarios which usually become more intense than what is expected and intended . It is also common among labor unions to organize a bargaining unit. As the name implies, this unit is the one responsible for all bargaining operations.
Everything that characterizes a labor union, from the main operations, the chain of command, the type and flow of interactions and operations between each member, and down to the minutest details of the structural organization of the union, is based on a constitution. Each labor union is governed both legally and ethically by their own constitution; each and every member, even leaders, is of course, both expected and required to act according to the rules and policies stipulated in their constitution .
As mentioned before, each union’s structure can be similar or different to other unions as long as everything goes in line with their respective constitutions, and of course the state policies regarding the formation and operation of labor unions. This is only reasonable because the establishment of labor unions can actually be seen as an organized, ethical, and legal effort to assert the rights of a labor workforce majority or minority. Not being able to follow their own constitution and worse, the state policies governing the establishment and operation of labor unions would only nullify their benefits as a union. Practically, the only reason why employers bother to negotiate with labor unions is the fact that the state requires them to because it thinks it is both a legal and ethical obligation to do so. However, the labor unions and its members must fulfill their part of the deal to and that is to tackle every issue legally and ethically as well. Doing otherwise would only automatically strip that benefit off .
However one may put it, the formation of labor unions and the fact that employers are not just allowed but required to attend to the bargaining and petition attempts of a specific labor union, is both legal and ethical, especially in the case of a labor union that has acquired the “juristic person” status, which automatically makes it a legal entity, albeit an artificial one. The acquisition of this legal status would only mean that labor unions have legal rights to engage in meaningful dialogues with state-run organizations and departments, and more importantly with their respective employers, over issues concerning wages, employment terms and conditions, working hours, and basically everything related to working conditions .
In most cases, the concerned parties—the employers and the members of the union, arrive at an agreement in an effort to peacefully settle the disputes and any disagreements related to their respective crafts. Not all cases end peacefully though. At times when parties become unable to arrive at an agreement, the situation usually deteriorates to the imposition of an industrial action, strikes, management lockouts, binding arbitrations, and in worse cases, illegal and violent activities .
A labor union is usually delineated by the organizing model and the service model. The former is comprised of full-time workers that are concerned with the organization of the union. They are the ones that build the moral and confidence of the union members up. They are also the ones that develop strong connections and networks with other people, usually influential ones, which may either, be a member of the union or not. The latter on the other hand is more focused on the maintenance of the workers’ rights, resolving disputes, and the provision of services .
Because of the different complications associated with the formation and operation of labor and trade unions, employers, and even the government itself, act to prevent the formation or expansion, or even to hinder the operations of labor and trade unions. This process is called Union Avoidance or as it is more popularly known, Union Busting. Both terms are however still vaguely used, especially those who are member of trade unions themselves because everything that does not go in favor of the unions are usually automatically branded as an act towards union busting or avoidance .
Discussion and Analysis
A lot of things have changed regarding the formation and operations concerning labor unions. First and foremost, it is now known that the government and high profile corporations that employ a huge size of employees can create conspiracies in an effort to serve the interests of one side better than the other when in fact, each side’s interests should be weighed in an unbiased way. Evidences from the literature review show that despite the numerous issues that flock labor unions every now and then, they still remain to be one of the most viable and effective strategies in protecting the rights of individual workers, even the lowest-paid ones, against the oppressive businessmen and employers.
Labor unions have become an integral part of managing a large organization or even an entire country’s workforce. They basically serve a very important role in maintaining balance between the employers and their respective employees’ rights and interests. Without these labor unions, employees would basically be defenseless and very vulnerable to illegal and unethical assertion of rights and pursuance of interests which can be done by any employer. Despite the rich and long history of labor unions which can date back to as early as the middle ages when different forms of guild were established, there are still many issues related to the establishment and the maintenance of its operations such as the usual violence and execution of illegal activities that result after an unsuccessful attempt to arrive at a peaceful dispute resolution, and conspiracies between the government and employers’ against labor unions or Union Avoidance. Nonetheless, labor unions have helped a lot of employees protect their rights and pursue their interests despite being practically the underdog. The presence of labor unions has also helped maintain a stable workforce management environment both in a corporate and national level.
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