Labor Unions And Inequality Essay

Length: 4 pages Sources: 12 Subject: Careers Type: Essay Paper: #8834604 Related Topics: Labor Relations, Labor Laws, Collective Bargaining, Inequality
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Labor Studies

Declining Unions and Worker Sentiment

In 2013, a startling recognition was went relatively unnoticed in the news: the American workforce share that was unionized reached a low that had not been seen in 97 years (Lui, 2013). The number of workers who belong to a union is a mere 11.3% of the labor force -- and is still shrinking (Ahlquist, 2012). The public sector, where unionization seemed to have found a solid fit, dropped from a peak of 35% of the labor force in 1950s to an abysmal low of 6.6% (Lui, 2013). Yet, despite the clarion call activated by these grim statistics, Americans seem blase about the decline of unions, taking the position, as Lui (2013) argues that it doesn't really impact them unless they are (or were) union members. The decline of membership in private sector unions in the United States dropped from 34% for men and 16% for women during 1973 to 8% for men and 6% for women in 2007 (Kristal, 2013). During this same period of time, the level of inequality in hourly...


Western and Rosenfeld (2011) attribute this rising wage inequality to the diminished share of wage distribution to union employees. In their decomposition of the data, Western and Rosenfeld (2011) argued that dispersion would have been even greater had unions not been able to "institutionalize norms of equity" in locales and industries which were highly unionized (p. 3). A fifth to a third of the increase in wage inequality can be accounted for by the effect of declines in organized labor, which is comparable to the effect education has on the evident stratification of wages in America (Western & Rosenfeld, 2011). Lui s (2013) asserts that the decline in unionization is due to deliberate and systematic "efforts to squeeze unions and disperse their power" (p.1). A factor in this is sort of reverse engineering that has individual workers framing their experiences in an atomized manner and while employers and wealthy elite have collectively organized -- in an increasingly blatant manner -- so as to "rig policy in their favor" (Lui, 2013, p. 1). If workers are not dissatisfied by this situation, Lui (2013) argues, it is because they don't see the relation.

The benefits attributed to unionization is unionization are broad, and can be seen in the lift that occurs to nonunion wages as a means to stave off union activism and subsequent organization: a higher prevailing wage is often the result of unionization in a region…

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Seniority systems are not required by law, but they are a prominent factor in collective bargaining processes. Indeed, "Strict formal seniority systems are commonplace in virtually all unionized organizations, but they are rare among nonunion employers" (Carrell & Heavrin, 2013). Regardless of whether a workplace is unionized or not, seniority is likely to play an important role in major personnel decisions (Carrell & Heavrin, 2013).

Preparing for Negotiations

Two important steps in the process of preparing for first round pre-negotiations with the union are to: 1) Review the previous negotiations, and 2) review the experience under the last contract. These two steps are basic to consideration of a renewal of even the most elementary type of agreement (Hartman & Bennett-Alexander, 2012). Basically, the idea is to consider what was previously agreed to -- and what the history or rationale for those agreements might have been -- and to consider how the procedural, operational, and final outcomes were experienced under the terms of the past agreement (Greenhouse, 2014). If the person doing the review was not a party at the table, the minutes or notes of those previous negotiation can serve as a mechanism for filling in the gaps. The objective would be to consider the arguments of both sides of the negotiation in order to anticipate any emerging or resilient sticking points (Carrell & Heavrin, 2013). The review should include any "side agreements" or oral commitments that were later recorded, particularly if these were not part of the original contract. It may be helpful to structure an indexed contract review and to develop a negotiating strategy book. A key matter is to

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