Category Archives: Labor-Management Relations

The Special Status of Union Stewards

Source: Robert M. Schwartz, Labor Notes, April 13, 2018

Standing up to bosses is essential to being a steward. On the shop floor and in grievance meetings, you must defend the actions of members and contest those of management.

In many cases you should be able to make your points temperately, practicing “quiet diplomacy.” But occasions will undoubtedly arise when you will want to raise your voice, challenge a supervisor’s credibility, or argue your case in other vigorous ways.

A widely accepted labor relations canon allows employers to discipline workers who fail to act respectfully toward management. Some legal treatises call this the “master-servant rule.”

But if stewards were subject to this rule while engaging in union activity, they would face an intolerable risk: speaking up for a member could put their own jobs in jeopardy. To resolve this dilemma, labor law accords a special status to union representatives. ….

Workers Need a Bill of Rights

Source: Andrew Strom, OnLabor blog, May 24, 2017

Except for about a month in the summer of 2009 when the Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate, for the entire twenty-first century any proposal to substantially increase workers’ rights at the national level has had to be prefaced by the comment that, “of course, this is not politically feasible now.” But rather than just spending the next four years fending off misguided Republican legislation, I think it’s time to step back and focus on principles that should guide workplace legislation. Toward that end, here are some thoughts on a potential workplace bill of rights.

There might be some other rights that should be included in this list, and maybe folks have ideas about better ways to phrase the various rights. But, I think it would be helpful for the labor movement, worker advocates, and the Democratic party to start talking about this bill of rights in order to refocus our discussion about jobs. The measure of a good job, whether it is in manufacturing or the service sector, should be whether it provides these rights to workers. In addition, we should be thinking about what changes we need to see in our laws to ensure that all workers enjoy these basic rights on the job. Some of these issues can be addressed at the state level, although of course, that would mean that these rights would exist in only a handful of states. Here’s my proposed worker bill of rights – let the debate begin…..

Labor–Management Partnership and Employee Voice: Evidence from the Healthcare Setting

Source: Ariel Avgar, Julie Anna Sadler, Paul F. Clark, Wonjoon Chung, Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Vol. 55, Issue 4, October 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This paper examines the relationship between labor–management partnership (LMP) and employee voice in the healthcare setting. We argue that the ability of LMP to deliver gains to employees is contingent on the quality of the procedural infrastructure on which it is established. We maintain that the quality of LMP processes influences employee trust in their employer and perceptions of union effectiveness and that these perceptions, in turn, are related to employee patient‐care voice.

The Declining Fortunes of American Workers: Six Dimensions and an Agenda for Reform

Source: Stephen F. Befort, University of Minnesota Law School, Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 16-28, September 27, 2016

From the abstract:
At the turn of the century, I undertook an assessment of the then current state of workplace rights and obligations. I concluded that the balance of power between employers and workers was “badly skewed” in favor of employers. This article revisits that topic for the purpose of assessing twenty-first century trends through the lens of six workplace dimensions. They are: workforce attachment, union-management relations, employment security, income inequality, balancing work and family, and retirement security. An examination of these dimensions reveal that the status of U.S. workers has significantly declined during the first sixteen years of the twenty-first century. This article then sets out a proposed agenda for reform designed to recalibrate the current imbalance in the respective fortunes of employees and employers.

Union–Management Partnerships, Teacher Collaboration, and Student Performance

Source: Saul A. Rubinstein, John E. McCarthy, ILR Review, Vol 69 no. 5, October 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Using data from surveys, interviews, and student performance, the authors examine collaborative union–management partnerships between local union representatives, teachers, and school administrators working together in innovative ways to improve teaching quality and student performance. Based on data from 27 schools in a southern California school district, the authors find that the strength of formal union–management partnerships is a significant predictor of greater growth in student performance over time, and that this relationship is mediated by stronger educator collaboration at the school level, after controlling for poverty. The findings suggest that student performance can be significantly improved by institutional union–management partnerships and the increased school-level collaboration that results from them.

How to transform workers’ campaign rage into better jobs and wages

Source: Thomas Kochan, The Conversation, March 24, 2016

The presidential campaigns deserve some credit for finally voicing some of the deep frustrations and anger felt by American workers who have lived for decades in an economy that works for those at the top but not for them and their families. …. But angry rhetoric will not put the economy on a path that works for the disaffected and disenfranchised. Instead we need to address the root causes of workers’ frustration and their economic decline. And to do that, I would argue, we need to fix our broken labor policy. ….

Up Close and Personnel: Neither workers nor bosses, human resources professionals straddle two worlds

Source: E. Tammy Kim, Al Jazeera America, October 31, 2015

….In the earliest days of American capitalism, there was no need for human resources or its historical cousins — welfare work, personnel or labor relations. Businesses were small, and laws were few; there was hardly an office, let alone a back office. All that changed about 100 years ago, with the growth of the corporate form and a regulatory state capable of keeping it in check. Human resources as we know it owes its flourishing to unions. It was at the mid-20th-century height of industrial organizing — when nearly a third of American employees belonged to a local — that “thousands of new personnel and labor relations specialists” were hired to navigate “the increasingly abstruse world of collective bargaining,” according to UCLA historian Sanford M. Jacoby. Large nonunion companies recruited their own personnel and newly minted human relations experts to design compensation plans and cultural programs comparable with those in union shops — the surest way to repel labor organizers…..

….This attention to the bottom line signaled a change in philosophy. Ambitious HR managers were told to ditch employee relations and W-2s for visioning meetings and five-year profit plans….

….This tension was on full display at the SHRM convention. On the first morning, I attended a four-hour seminar titled “Labor relations for human resources managers.” It promised an overview of “how labor practices can affect your workplace” in the context of “the National Labor Relations Board’s aggressive recruitment and targeting of nonunion employees.” In other words, a primer on employment law, collective bargaining agreements (the contracts unions negotiate with employers) and rules for worker organizing. The two presenters, an employer-side attorney and a management consultant, began with a rhetorical question, “How do you keep them out?” — unions, that is. …. The speakers were so critical of unions and worker protests that the audience — friendly, even-tempered HR professionals from hotels, manufacturers and government agencies — started to fidget and get defensive….

Labor-Management Relations in Public (and Business) Administration: A Textbook Case?

Source: James S. Bowman, Jonathan P. West, Journal of Public Affairs Education, Vol. 21 no. 3 Summer 2015

From the abstract:
Unions are a perennial topic of controversy in American society. This article examines the attention
that labor-management relations receive in introductory public administration textbooks. These
publications define the focus of the field, its paradigm, and its essential elements; they also likely
affect how the subject is presented in the classroom. Given the interest in labor-management
relations and their place in the administrative state, how is the topic portrayed in beginning texts?
This investigation provides an overview of contemporary union activity and a description of the
methodology used, followed by the study findings. While all books reviewed give some attention to
employer-employee relations, the context and content of the coverage is, at best, modest. The
analysis briefly compares public and business administration texts in each subsection of the findings,
and generally reveals small differences between them. The conclusion discusses the implications of
the data.

Leadership and Performance of Public Employees: Effects of the Quality and Characteristics of Manager-Employee Relationships

Source: Shahidul Hassan and Deneen M. Hatmaker, Journal of Public Admin. Research and Theory, Volume 25, Issue 4, October 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Few studies in public management have assessed whether managerial leadership has any influence on job performance of public employees. This study employs a well-established theory of leadership, leader-member exchange (LMX) theory, to consider the effects of the manager-employee relationship on ratings of employee in-role and extra-role performance. It also investigates how differences in gender between the manager and employee and duration of their relationship may influence the effects of LMX on employee job performance. We examine these linkages with data from two surveys of 477 employees and 161 managers working in a large state government agency. We find that when the quality of LMX is high, employees receive higher performance ratings, and this association is moderated by difference in gender between an employee and manager and the duration of time an employee has worked for a particular manager. We discuss implications of our findings and avenues for future research for public management scholarship. We also offer suggestions for public management practice regarding how to develop high-quality relationships with employees.

Green Tape and Job Satisfaction: Can Organizational Rules Make Employees Happy?

Source: Leisha DeHart-Davis, Randall S. Davis and Zachary Mohr, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Volume 25 Issue 3, July 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Organizational rules are the backdrop of public employee life, with research suggesting both beneficial and harmful effects to employee morale. In contrast to the traditional approach of comparing employee morale in workplaces with higher versus lower levels of rules, this study examines the relationship between specific attributes of organizational rules and job satisfaction. A combination of three organizational rule attributes is expected to increase job satisfaction: consistent rule application (which conveys procedural fairness), optimal rule control (which suggests elements of self-determination), and rule formalization (pertaining to the written quality of organizational rules). Applying structural equation modeling to survey data collected from the employees of two local government organizations (n = 1,655), we observe a significant and positive relationship between consistent rule application, optimal control, and job satisfaction, but no direct relationship between rule formalization and job satisfaction. These results suggest that job satisfaction depends more on how rules are designed and implemented rather than the extent of rules in organizational structure. Future studies will need to account for specific attributes of organizational rules to fully understand the effects on public employee morale.