How should labor relations in the United States progress in the future?
Labor relations have been facing stiff opposition as well as criticism for quite some time now. Membership in unions has also drastically reduced today compared to in the 1950s. Membership has declined from 33 percent for all American workers in the 1950s to 11.8 percent today (Freeman and Hilbrich 1). The most affected areas are in the south where labor unions are virtually nonexistent. The few that remain in other parts of America continue to struggle. Remarkably, changes need to be made so that their activities can progress in the future. Scholars and researchers argue that the only successful path that labor unions could survive and successfully progress into the future is if they are liberated from the NLRA laws. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) that was created many decades ago needs to adjust to change caused by globalization and other factors that restrict both the employers and employees (Ozimek 2014).
What changes do you believe are necessary for the U.S. to achieve your optimum labor relations vision?
Ozimek (2014) suggests that labor unions are beneficial to employees only if they are dedicated to the right causes. However, today most private unions have focused their collaborative powers on in the bargaining table only on economic pressure. This market driven structure is pre NLRA, which its only goal is to create fairer labor markets by shifting bargain power from the employers to the employee. This period was characterized by business mobility and lack of other external pressures evident today because of globalization. Notably, Freeman and Hilbrich (3) state that today the NLRA clauses restrict both the employers and the employees due to increased business mobility and outsourcing to countries without similar legal constraints. Market forces should, therefore, be used to determine proper bargains between unions and businesses instead of laws.
This new strategy would require the unions and private worker organizations to embrace market forces as their exclusive tool when bargaining with the employers. They would also need to concede the powers of exclusive representation and mandatory good faith in the absence of laws to use as guidelines. The free market structure created by exclusive representation would force unions to adjust their policies and resources according to the particular demands presented by the workplace and industry. This way, the unions, would create value instead of just redistributing it. As a result, Ozimek (2014) claims that the union’s value creation which would help them in the bargaining table. The right of workers to organize without retaliation would make it easier for unions to voice their complaints. This is because unions would not have monopolistic powers, which increases tension. Although unions would become rampant, their collective mandatory bargaining representation would require them to change tactics.
Under the NLRA law, union activity, particularly majority-supported unions, are especially costly for employers and businesses. Despite the stringent rights limiting the managers, the economic consequences are usually too drastic for the employers. This is because the current system highly favors the unions compared to the employers. However, changes would result to balance of power (Ozimek 2014).
Through eliminating the legal incentives, the unions would then focus on providing evidence that they would benefit both the employer and employee. For example, unions focusing at reducing workplace injuries would most probably be more effective than most unions today. The managers would also be willing to discuss with unions given that evidence would be directly related to the particular workplace, would be a market driven, and mutually benefiting. This would allow unions to penetrate the work place like in the European Union where a country like Austria has 100 percent employee representation (Freeman and Hilbrich 8). Unions would become more flexible and permanent since they meet the needs of both the employers and employees.
In conclusion, unions will have to search for new forms to carry out their functions of representing the interest or workers. They will have to reinvent their structures, strategies, and tactics if they are to have a future in the United States. Those that succeed will reinvent them as a vibrant social workforce, which looks out for both the employers and the employees.
Ozimek, Adam. Reinventing unions for the 21st century: Forbes, Oct 29, 2012. Web 11 April 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/modeledbehavior/2012/10/29/reinventing-unions-for-the-21st-century/
Freeman, Richard B & Hilbrich, Kelsey. Do labour unions have a future in the United States? In The economics of inequality, poverty, and discrimination in the 21st Century, 2013, 1-13. Retrieved from: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/10488702/15855239.pdf?sequence=2