Legal Framework Which Provides the Foundations for Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

legal framework which provides the foundations for the American system of labor / management relations.

The state of labor / management relations today is very different than it was 100 years ago. Workers can actually reason with their employers and, more than anything else, employers often find themselves at the mercy of employees (due to the unions) and having to kow tow to their demands. This has both negative and positive ramifications.

The history of the labor / management relations synthesis started in the 1860s when the Industrial Revolution created a surplus of labor and competition between factories for workers. Few laws had existed for workers and employers had been cheap with their wages. Unions had existed in the past and workers had often been fired from unions. In fact, workers who had banded together had been perceived as criminals.

The first national union that succeeded, the Knights of Labor, organized political labor and mediated between workers and employers. It was the first successful union. Even here however, employers were not receptive to unions and often forcibly disbursed them. The Norris-Laguardia Act in 1932 was a reaction forbidding employers to go through the federal courts to subdue unions.

World War II gave rise to the traditional structure of labor / management relations as we know it today. America emerged as one of the few influential countries whose infrastructure was mostly intact. America dominated global trade. There was a high demand for labor which gave workers significant leverage in bargaining. The result was a mushrooming of unions that insisted on better working conditions for laborers that included a full work week, job security and cheaper health insurance. These unions also operated labor / management relations by mediating between worker and manager.

Typical of those times, the first modern labor law was the Wagner Act of 1935, also known as the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) (29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq.). This later developed into the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 and the Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959. The Federal Railway Labor Act that governed railroad and airline industries was amended in 1934, and federal employees were covered by the Federal Service Labor Management and Employee Relation Act.

The NLRA became the key labor management relationships law that stated that workers had "the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively, through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for & #8230; mutual aid or protection" section 7 (29 U.S.C.A. § 157). The Act also prohibited employers and unions from committing "unfair labor practices" that would violate any of these rights.

The 1980 was a low time for unions when need for workers plummeted with the industrial situation of recovering countries such as Japan's on the rise. These countries competed with the U.S.A. By building cheaper higher quality goods whilst technology too replaced need for labor by automating many tasks. The government, too, no longer protected unions and the collective bargaining process with, in 19821, firing many Federal Aviation Administration workers. Regan's period of the 1980s saw decline of many labor unions.

This situation continued until today with most companies evidencing an adversarial labor-management relationship. This type of situation is disadvantageous for the company and some firms recognize it. The Hunt Wesson food oil refinery in Memphis, Tennessee, for instance, has encouraged employees to form teams and to create their own performance standards. It has also divided the traditional tasks of the supervisor to the team members who rotate these tasks every hour. The changes have been advantageous for Wesson: Restructuring Associates reports that they were followed by a 58-percent jump in the number cases of oil produced per worker, a 62.5-percent drop in absenteeism and a 10-percent reduction in material waste. (Chron. online).

2. The actions of unions and management: basic compliance with the major U.S. federal labor laws?

Unions provide a general framework of compliance with the major U.S. federal labor laws in that they protect employees from arbitrary and unfair employment practices such as unsafe/uncomfortable working conditions, long hours, arbitrary hiring and firing. They provide workers with a voice allowing them to deal with the power structure and to collectively bargain for their needs such as fair pay, healthy environment, positive working hours, and so forth. They also provide workers with greater job security and greater peace of mind from possible layoff and wage/benefit cuts. Beneficial, furthermore, for both manager and worker is the fact that unions can foster better relationships between both. Employers can deal with grievances collectively rather than on individual basis.

unions enforce manager compliance with many of the major labor laws. These include:

1. Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act which adjoins that management crate a safe and healthy environment for worker

2. Certain worker's compensation acts such as the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) which requires certain lump payments to workers and/or families for various workplace-instigated accidents.

3. Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) -- which regulates arrangements between worker and manager regarding pension and other benefits

4. Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) -- protects union funds and members by requiring employees and employers to file regular reports regarding their relationship.

5. Employee Protection -- This provides whistleblower protection for employees who complain against, or report corruption in, their workplace

6. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) -- which requires employers of 50 or more employees to give up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for the birth or adoption of a child or for any serious illness by an immediate family member.

There are various other laws too, many relevant to particular professions such as Agriculture, Construction, Transpiration, and the like.

Unions require employers to conform to these laws. (U.S. Dept. Of Labor Summary of the Major Laws of the Department of Labor

On the other hand, in today's working environment that gives supremacy to managers and discourages unions, relatively few Americans join unions. This is because penalties for violating laws are weak and labor laws do little to discourage the firing, harassment and discrimination against workers who do form and join a union. Even when workers do join a union, employers can argue results of litigation and this may take years with employer often (due to his position) having the upper hand ( Broken Labor Law, com_issues/Itemid,92/view, issue/id,9/)

In short, Dept. Of Labor provides laws that regulate relationship between manager and employee but these are not all or always complied with

3. Contrast the roles and responsibilities of key participants in a right-to-work state when compared to a non-right-to-work state.

The right-to work state practices the statute that prohibits union security agreements between labor unions and employers where unions require that employers insist on employees' membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. The statute also prohibits the union from demanding that companies only employ union-associated workers.

The right-to-work statue works to control some of the negative ramifications that accrue from lack of this statute. Managers in non-right-to-work states are often compelled to only employ union-associated workers, retain unproductive employees (who are protected due to their association with a union) and leverage worker's salaries (some of which goes to union) therefore leading to job losses for workers, since companies prefer to hire cheaper workers. Firms either relocate their companies to countries such as India and China, or hire non-unionized workers since the cost of firing and maintaining a unionized worker is too great. The disadvantages for the public, in general, are that joining a union results in higher prices for the manager which then results in more expensive items. Unions also prevent more qualified workers from obtaining the jobs, since the less qualified workers are protected from layoffs or firing. This frequently results in less competent (or totally incompetent) workers retaining their jobs too. This is disadvantageous for the company. Also disadvantageous is the fact that unions result in decreased motivation for job since pay levels are determined by seniority rather than by performance. There are lack of incentives and little fear of losing jobs leading to decreased productivity. It may create an 'us' v' them' hostility between workers and management and decreases flexibility in negotiating problems. Finally, unions reduce the value of the investment put into company since the risk of company rises with possible work stoppages, reduced productivity and so forth. The manager, too, can often become hostage to the demands of the union which is not always about fairness to worker but more about meeting their requirements.

The condition in the non-right-to-work states, therefore, may, whilst seeming to be more advantageous to workers actually is disadvantageous to them since employers choose to settle for cheaper workers. It also destructs manager- worker relationship causing potential distrust between both and can harm productivity of firm. The non-right-to-work condition has led to the contemporary state of many organizations falling out of favor with the idea of the unions…

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