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The Department of Labor is present today to promote, foster and develop the welfare of the employees or the labor force in the United States. The labor system focuses on the improvement of the working conditions and the fulfillment of opportunities for more profitable employment. As it would be known, rules and regulations are there to keep things in order. Similarly, the Labor system in the country is guided by laws that guarantee the rights and privileges of the labor force of the country.
The Department of Labor has made laws concerning working conditions, minimum hourly wage, and freedom from employment discrimination, worker's compensation and unemployment insurance. The labor system also aids in job training programs and it helps workers find jobs. Everyone needs a decent source of income and if a person has some sort of skill or talent, they should definitely make use of it.
The basic feature of the labor system is to ensure that jobs are equally spread out through the country. The labor system therefore petitions the government for channeling more of the federal budget towards the production of labor. Therefore, jobs are created either in government offices, through construction or through small business. In the end, the labor system ensures that the people get jobs, work in decent working conditions and are paid fairly.
Employee Relationship and Labor Relations
Employee Relationship and Labor Relations are two different concepts with varying goals and objectives. Employee relationship refers to the relations between employees and their employer. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has stated that employment relationship should be distinguished from a strictly contractual one. The economic reality guides this relationship and it is not determined by law standards in relation to master and servant. Therefore, the major objective of this relationship is to ensure that both the employee and the employer are getting their economic benefits out of this relationship. There is a decreed extent for the nature of control, the permanency of the relationship and other factors. One similarity between employee relationship and labor relations is that the well-being of the entire individual is necessary.
On the other hand, labor relations are the practice and the study of managing unionized employment situations. Theoretically, labor relations are associated more with industrial relations and are linked to other disciples such as history, law and sociology. Unlike employment relationship, these relations encircle the entire workforce of a company. The employees work together in form of labor unions or labor movements. This is a private sector in the United States and is guided by the National Labor acts. An in depth discussion of labor unions within the United States will shed some more light on labor relations.
History of Labor Relations
The National Labor Union founded in 1866 was the first step that the people of America took towards organized labor. Ever since then, pressures arising from nature and power of organized labor have included demands for exclusive worker control, higher wages and favorable working conditions.
Most of the movements were inspired by the immediate interests of the craft members of the movement. They derived their concepts from the Ricadian labor theory concerning value and republican ideals of the American Revolution. They targeted social equality, honest labor and independent and virtuous citizenship. At first, labor unions were divided into the National Labor Union and Knights of Labor. The Knights of labor targeted more towards the immediate working condition of the laborers where as the other movement rooted for long-term reforms.
As the Industrial Era rolled in, long-term reforms became the major goal and the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was created. The formation of this movement changed the belief of the workers towards job conscious goals like the security and freedom of a worker. One formal policy asserted by AFL was that it represented all workers. Therefore problems faced by worker of every skill, religion, race gender or nationality could be put forward in this movement. Unfortunately, this policy could not be preserved as many laborers began their own unions within their area of work. For instance, coal miners, garment traders and steel workers made their own unions concerned with the rapid shift to technological change. It was seen that most of the skill lines were linked to certain races, ethnicities and genders. Ultimately, the movement took on this racist and sexist approach as well.
After the formation of AFL, many other unions were being created in competition. It could be said that these groups of workers were just beginning to notice the disparities present in their group. Therefore, they decided to launch protest and strikes in their interests as well. The Pullman strike was a significant event in the history of organized labor. When the Pullman Palace Company cut wages in the factories, the raged workers then joined in the American Railway Union. Within just four days, about 125,000 workers quit their jobs in the Pullman company (Lindsey, 1964)
Starting in 1900s, industries were being flooded with skilled workers who worked day in and day out. In 1902, the coal strikes summoned President Theodore Roosevelt to increase the wages and cut down the working hours of the laborers. In 1914, the Ludlow Massacre occurred when the United Mine Workers of America protested against dangerous working conditions and the unfair salaries for the workers. The companies that were targeted included the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company, The Rockefeller owned Colorado Fuel and Iron Company and Victor-American Fuel Company. The companies responded by removing the strikers and their families from the company houses. This caused more strike related violence that increased so much that the National Guard and military were required to maintain peace in the region. Protest and fights left 32 women and children dead and got 13 of the strikers killed in the process. Instances like these over the years put more and more pressure on the government to produce a legal framework that overlooks the labor system in the country.
The United States department of Labor has created many laws that overlook the beneficence of the employees. President Franklin D. Roosevelt endorsed about 121 bills in 1938 and the Fair Labor Standards Act was one of them. This act went on to prohibit child workforce and it also established a minimum hourly wage. Furthermore, it also reduced the amount of working hours as well. Ever since then, many amendments have been made to the act that basically go on to cater to the needs of the workforce. Laws concerning the health and safety of the workers were added onto this act. Similarly, laws regarding workplace race and gender discrimination were also included.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) provided the basic framework through which employees' used their legal rights to form unions and bargain with the employers. It is compulsory for the employer to bargain with its employees but they can also go on to make a union if the majority of employees are in favor of it. Many amendments were made to this act and the Taft- Hartley Labor Act of 1947 was one of them. Many workers and unions opposed this change. This act prohibited the employees to arrange strikes or shut down businesses just because their demands were not being fulfilled. This therefore restricted the activities of the unions and gave reasons to employers to close down unions.
Unions in America Today
This brief history and the reforms to the United States employment framework gives us significant information about constant attempts to the make labor relations and employment better. The system of union representation and collective bargaining that was built in 1935 is dying down slowly. Even though union membership has fallen significantly, the working conditions and the unfair practices still have not been reversed. Even though the numbers have declined, the demands for being represented in a union have increased highly. Employees expect the employers to value their input, listen to them and build a cooperative and friendly work environment.
Western and Beckett (1999) have stated that the United States is a rather unregulated labor market and that is leading to increased chances of unemployment in the end. Many experts have stated that regulation of the labor markets decreases competitiveness. Evidence from studies has proved that the markets like Europe and France where their labor is regulated are far less competitive than the United States (Olson, 1982) Regardless, the working and the living conditions of the employees is still compromised.
Baron, Jennings and Dobbin (1988) have made use of historical evidence to conclude that cooperation can be obtained from employees in the modern world with three techniques. Formal job analysis and record keeping, seniority rules that are attained from unionism and internal labor market rules such as demarcated promotion paths. Today, the trend of human resources department has made it possible for employees to take their concerns and grievances to them directly. This way has rather been seen a way to suppress the production of labor unions and organized labor…[continue]
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