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Union Organizing Campaign and Collective Bargaining

The presence and the influence of corporations within society can no longer be viewed from economic perspectives only. After the revolution industry, the presence of large, profit oriented organizations has become an undeniable part of modern life. In many regions of the world, the way these organizations manage themselves evolves long with the evolution of the society around them. Thus, how we manage these organizations either through governmental institutions or social acts will soon describe how we exist as a society, and a nation.

In the light of these developments, we can no longer view the presence of union, collective bargaining and union organizing campaigns as an economic struggle of people with lower economic stature, it must be viewed as a national struggle to maintain existing values within our economic and social existence. How our government and our general society act toward labor issues end employment will define how we choose to exist in the modern world. Today however, we see large corporations without labor organizations that sufficiently represent employees’ rights in performing collective bargaining.

Some of these firms grow and prosper exactly because they are able to get great employment deals from the absence of an established labor union. Despite newspaper

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coverage and complaints from individuals and organizations, no real efforts have actually been influential to how the firms operate. The economic benefits these firms brought to their communities are sometimes sufficient to allow several legal requirements to be overlooked. This is just one scenario of how labor organizing campaigns are made difficult in the United States (McCartin, 1987).

In this paper, I am discussing the Union Organizing Campaign and Collective Bargaining in United States. The short paper will be divided into: elaborations on the background of Union Organizing Campaign and Collective Bargaining and discussions on how these issues are developing in United States. Within these discussions there will be case examples that will better illustrate issues in union organizing and collective bargaining. II. Issue Background II. 1. Union Organizing Campaign Background

In the US, scholars and observers admitted that the labor union has an important role of becoming the legally recognized representatives of workers throughout the states. There is a fundamental connection between activities of organizing a labor union and collective bargaining because labor unions are centrally about enabling collective bargaining over wages, benefits, working conditions, etc. Historians in this subject stated that the first labor union was formed in 18th century and labor unions in US were actually the strongest at 1950’s.

Today however, it remains an important political factor. Some of the keystones in the shaping of labor union history were the establishment of the AFL (American Federation of Labor) in 1886 and the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) in 1938. Today however, most unions in the United States are guided by one or two large umbrella organizations, which are the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Federation. These organizations have considerable political influence and advocate policies and legislation favorable to workers in US and Canada (Namit, 1987).

The important thing that we must underline is that the functions of labor union in US as elaborated above is mostly popular among public organizations, while private sector-American union membership averaged under 10%. Some believed that the number is so low because there is no ability to prevent non-union firms to grow in market share. Others stated that the opposition of employers contributed to the decline in membership. Capitalism remains the greatest virtue in American economy.

Nevertheless, American unions are still generating important political influence from either mobilization of membership or coalitions with other campaigns like immigrant rights, healthcare, etc. There is however, the darker side of labor union’s history. Historic records revealed that labor unions in the past were infiltrated by members of organized crime, like the Mafia. II. 2. Collective Bargaining In terms, the collective bargaining means a process where workers bargain with employees regarding their workplace.

The result of the collective bargaining process Iin the collective agreement between an organization or the employer and an individual with on or more union. If generally employees negotiate their wages themselves, through the collective bargaining process, a legitimate union can act as representative of the individuals in negotiating with employers. This will provide more strength for the employees and would be closer to a fair negotiation. The philosophy behind collective bargaining and why it becomes important in modern day business varies.

Some parties argued that the right to bargain collectively simply enhances the human dignity, liberty and autonomy of workers. This is achieved through providing employees the chance to influence the making of workforce rules and standards which will have significant influence over their working conditions, furthermore, their lives within the organization. Nowadays, collective bargaining is demanded by the law. Thus, the practice of collective bargaining will ensure the workings of the rule of law and furthermore, support the achievement of workforce democracy.

In the United States, collective agreements in the private sector are covered by the National Labor Relations Act (1935). By the establishment of this law, employees’ right to chose whomever represents them are a collective bargaining with employers are guaranteed by the government. It becomes illegal for employers to discriminate against workers because they choose to support or leave the union that represents them in a collective bargaining. III. Discussions of Labor Unions and Collective Bargaining Developments

III. 1. Basic Science on Organizing Unions Despite the dispute and pressure that exist when we are discussing efforts of establishing or maintaining continuance of labor unions, there are actually 5 basic steps in developing a labor union: 1. Building the Organizing Committee The first step and the foundation of the union organizing activity is establishing leaders that has the will and skills to represents all departments regardless of racial, gender and ethnicity issues.

Usually, the presence of a good leader has a tremendous effect on the future of the union. These people are the ones that will face the obstacles, both from the environment and from the employers themselves as they are fighting for the establishment of the Union. Big hearted, compassionate and diligent people are needed. After such people are discovered, they should immediately get to know the environment in which they will struggle.

This includes understanding about workplace structure, like information about existing departments, work areas, shifts and job descriptions; employee information, like name, addresses, phone, etc; employer information, like the presence of other locations, parent company, subsidiaries, customers, historical development, etc. 2. Create Programs to Address Issues The next step of unionizing employees are developing programs of concerns, this means union demands, and a strategy to win the union election.

If the union is a company, then this step is similar to the planning stage, where owners and managers establish corporate vision, missions, objectives and strategies to achieve them. 3. Getting the People to Sign-up After all internal structures are well organized, the next step of organizing is to get out on the public and get the people to sign on membership cards. Most state laws require 30% of the organization’s workforce to sign union membership cards before the union is legally established. Employers and other externalities will attempt to prevent the formation of a legal union, but this is where the union-team must succeed.

Getting the people to sign is the first real success in organizing the union. 4. Win the Election The signed cards will be sent to the federal labor board and enable them to provide us with an election. After receiving the request to establish a labor union along with the signed union cards, the board will convene to determine who is eligible to vote and then scheduled an election. If the union wins, employer must start recognizing the presence of the union as a legal representation of their labor force. This mean all managerial decisions which affect the laborers must be discussed with the union. 5.

Negotiate a Contract Generally, after winning the election, a recently formed labor union will request the cooperation of the managers to establish a labor employment contract. This contract should discuss everything from wages, benefits, leaves, holidays and how to handle rising disputes. The discussion of contract terms will generally be harsh and involving workforce mobilization and even demonstrations. (Herman, 1985) III. 2. Viewing from the Perspective of the Employer In order to be prepared of what is coming, the leaders of the labor union must be aware of how their employer perceived the formation of the labor.

For a profit-oriented organization, especially small businesses, the presence of a union-organizing campaign means a lot of stress and headache. Nevertheless, the managerial team has an obligation under the law to not interfere with organizing efforts, unless they are prepared to face legal trouble with the National Labor Relations Board. Despite these restrictions, the formation of a labor union will significantly change things for owners and leaders of the company and that is why they will not easily surrender in efforts of preventing the organizing campaigns.

There are loopholes in the labor union-related laws that pose as opportunities for employers to stop unionizing efforts. For example, they are within their legal rights to prohibit campaign activities during working hours, like passing on union cards or discussing union issues etc. Furthermore, the law states that right to perform union organizing campaigns belongs to employee of the firm only and external involvement is not legally protected. This means the firm is allowed to bar non-employee union representatives form its property and prohibit the distribution of pro-union materials by non-employees.

Owners and managers are also under the protection of the free speech legislations when they invite employees for a small ‘discussion’. In these discussions, which can be conducted at any time convenient for the employers, even if the managers are not allowed to threaten the employees in any way, they are allowed to express their personal opinions regarding the unionizing effort and what it will do to the company. In most cases, these ‘discussions’ are still a good way to intimidate employees out of supporting the union.

In response to this threat however, union organizing committee formulate a different approach toward promoting its labor union. Instead of approaching employees in their place of work, the organizing committee is approaching people in their homes and arranges meetings in city halls rather than using corporate facilities or in corporate grounds. III. 3. Collective Bargaining Case Studies: New Demands In all recent managerial discussions, we will discover that most managers believe that we are doing business in a new economy, with various new challenges and requirements.

In this ‘information age’ employees are demanded to be more sensitive toward customers wants and to be more creative in fulfilling them. Becoming a ‘knowledge worker’ does not make its easier for employees. In companies like AT & T, Bell Atlantic Mobile, Amazon and IBM, they are demanded to enter new training programs as the company is going through restructuring programs, mergers acquisitions etc, which brings additional pressure to employees because they would have to cope with new working conditions, perhaps new superiors, etc.

In these new working conditions that poses more stressful working environments, researchers indicated that the new economy-workers asks more than what workers are asking in previous times. Some are as following: 1. Job security in a new form Because of the increasingly volatile industry, workers no longer demand job security in one organization, but the ability to transfer from job to job without losing job advancement. This means job placement services, pension benefits, wage insurance, etc. 2. Formation of intellectual capital As mentioned, employees today need to know that they are secured despite the fact that they change jobs frequently.

They need to develop their skills, setting professional standards, developing occupational ethos, etc. 3. Formation of social capital Today’s workers are also eager to develop their soft skills, which includes teamwork, customer satisfaction skills, etc. 4. Cooperative work relations Today’s workers are not just asking for salaries and benefits anymore, but also involvement in achieving corporate goals. Equal working conditions are preferable because it would better support cooperation. 5. Work-family balance Because working hours are growing longer and more demanding, the job often becomes the central part of employees’ life.

It is not surprising when employees start asking for working conditions that better support their life as a whole, including families and personal business. (Hezenberg, 1999) With the presence of these new demands, it is apparent that the presence of a union and a sound collective bargaining process is required even more. Nevertheless, tendencies revealed that companies in the new economy are prepared to offer their chosen employees with those that they demanded in condition that they do not organize the shaping of a labor union.

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