Employment Relations in the United States

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5TH EDITION

INTERNATIONAL

& COMPARATIVE

EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS

Globalisation and change

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury and Nick
Wailes


© Allen & Unwin, 2011. These slides are support material for
International and Comparative Employment Relations 5th edition
. Lecturers using the
book as a set text may freely use these slides in class, and may distribute them to students in their course
only
.
These slides may not be posted on
any university library sites, electronic learning platforms or other channels accessible to other courses, the university at
lar
ge or the general public.


CHAPTER 3

Employment Relations in the United States



Harry C.
Catz

and Alexander J. S. Colvin


2

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

Lecture Outline


Key themes


Historical context


The role of the state


US employers


US unionism and revitalisation


Collective bargaining


The 2000s


Variations in employment practices


The
Employee Free Choice Act


Conclusions

3

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

Key themes


High diversity of employment conditions in US
system


Relatively low levels of unionisation compared to
other DMEs


Significant differences between union and non
-
union
sectors


Recent union revitalisation and changed strategies


Decentralisation of collective bargaining structures
and strategy


Possible regulatory intervention

4

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

Historical context


Early unions were formed by and were exclusive to
skilled craftsmen


The dominance of
Taylorism

or ‘scientific
management’ undermined the rationale for
mainstream workers to act collectively to negotiate
pay and conditions


Further, early capitalists were politically powerful
and vigorously opposed the union movement


Even the early successes of the craft unions were
hampered by the organised opposition of employers
and anti
-
union employment laws

5

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

Historical context


It was not until the Great Depression of the 1930s that
unions first began to organise factory workers


Many circumstances led to successful organisation during
the 1930s including the
Wagner Act
1935 which gave
employees the federally guaranteed right to organise and
strike for the first time


In the 1940s and 1950s the unions continued to grow
although federal legislation restricted and regulated them


Collective bargaining arrangements secured during the
war continued in peacetime


The1960s and 1970s saw much of the public sector
unionise

6

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

The role of the state


The US state influences industrial relations beyond its role as
an employer in two main ways:


Direct regulation of terms and conditions of employment


Regulation of the manner in which organised labour and
management relate to each other


Federal and state wage and hour laws provide for minimum
levels of pay and overtime rates, although many workers are
excluded from the operation of these laws


‘Employment at will’ operates in the US


employers do not
have to provide just cause for dismissal, reasonable notice or
severance pay on dismissal of an employee

7

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

The role of the state


The
National
Labor

Relations Act (
also called the
NLRA

or
Wagner Act)

provides a structure of rules establishing
employee rights with respect to collective action


Some of these rules include union certification (by secret
ballot) and the requirement for certified unions and
employers to bargain in good faith


There is debate over whether union certification procedures
unfairly restrict the right of workers to organise into unions


Employment disputes in the US are resolved through the
general court system or agreed arbitration procedures and
not through specialist tribunals (results are high costs, long
waiting times, greater variability in outcomes)

8

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

Employers and their organisations


Employer organisations are relatively unimportant in
the United States as there have never been national
employers’ confederations engaging in a full range of
industrial relations activities


However, a number of employer organisations have
focused on union avoidance measures including anti
-
union litigation, lobbying and publicity campaigns


In contrast to the relative weakness of employer
associations, management consultants and law firms
that represent employers play an active role in US
industrial relations

9

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

US union movement


In 2007, union density was approximately 36% in the
public sector and 7.5% in the private sector


US unions are unique in their approach to ‘business
unionism’, where they focus narrowly on providing
benefits to existing members


American unions have focused mostly on collective
bargaining with an accompanied strike threat


US unions have not formed a political labour party
but often financial contribute to other major political
campaigns, most frequently those of Democratic
Party candidates

10

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

Public sector unionism


There was a rapid increase in public sector unionism in
the 1960s and 1970s


Federal, state and local government employees are
excluded from coverage under the
NLRA
. Separate legal
relations govern collective bargaining in each of these
sectors


As of 2006, all but nine states had legislation providing at
least some of their state or local government employees
with the rights to organise and bargain collectively


The public sector is the most heavily unionised sector in
the US, with just over one
-
third of employees unionised

11

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

Structure of the US union movement


National unions are very powerful as they dictate
strategy, control strike funds and can establish and
disestablish local unions


Local unions usually carry out day
-
to
-
day activities of the
union movement including the enforcement of
employee rights under the collective agreement and
usually conduct bargaining over the terms of new
agreements and any resulting strikes (although this is
sometimes carried out by national unions)


The national centralisation of strike funds has meant
that unions have been able to develop common rules
and to strike effectively

12

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

The AFL
-
CIO


The American Federation of
Labor
-
Congress of Industrial
Organizations (AFL
-
CIO) is a federation of national unions that
includes a substantial share of union members


The role of the AFL
-
CIO is:



to provide a national political and public voice for the US union
movement


to resolve jurisdictional disputes among members


to enforce codes of ethical practices and policies against racial and sex
discrimination


to provide a link to the international labour movement


In recent years the AFL
-
CIO has championed new organising
methods which led to the 2005 breakaway of a number of key
national unions, resulting in a new union federation called Change
to Win

13

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

Union revitalisation


One of the purposes of the AFL
-
CIO organising initiative is to diffuse
throughout the labour movement successful organising strategies used by
affiliated unions


These strategies include using young, well
-
educated organisers and
involve extensive direct communication with prospective members and
links to community groups such as churches


The AFL
-
CIO tried to modernise and broaden issues that attract union
members (e.g. child care, equal pay)


During the 1990s and early 2000s there was little evidence that these
strategies were working, although in 2007 US union membership numbers
increased by the largest amount in over 25 years and it was the first time
that union membership rate had increased in 50 years


This growth in service sector unions suggests that some of these strategies
may be having a positive effect on membership numbers, although it is too
early to tell whether this trend will continue

14

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

Formation of the

‘Change to Win’ Coalition


Declining membership rates have led to divisions within the labour
movement about how best to rebuild union strength


In 1995, John Sweeney was elected AFL
-
CIO President after challenging
the existing strategy and direction of the union movement


In 2005, Sweeney’s leadership was similarly challenged as major unions
called for more resources to be directed to organising and to encouraging
the merger of smaller unions into larger, more powerful unions


In May 2005, four of the major unions


the SEIU, UNITE
-
HERE, the IBT and
the LIUNA


issued a joint proposal for reform of the AFL
-
CIO


These proposals were rejected and in June 2005 the four dissenting unions
formed the rival Change to Win Coalition (CTW)


Today the CTW Coalition represents some 6 million US workers and the
AFL
-
CIO represents 9 million US workers

15

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

Implications of the split


A major concern following the split was that the two
federations would compete with each other and the
strength and voice of the union movement would be
weakened


Initial experience suggests that the CTW Coalition
and the AFL
-
CIO have been able to work together in
some areas, such as political campaigns


Early assessments of the impacts of the spilt are
divided and the effect on membership numbers and
other indicators of success remains to be seen

16

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

Collective bargaining


In the non
-
union sector, pay rates and conditions are
generally imposed unilaterally by the employer


In the union sector, the structure of collective bargaining is
highly fragmented and this fragmentation is increasing, with
most bargaining taking place at the single workplace level


Despite this fragmentation, there are some common features
of collective bargaining agreements:


They are very detailed


They cover issues of pay, hours of work, holidays, pensions, health and
life insurance, union recognition, management rights, the role of
seniority in determining promotions and layoffs and paid time off


They detail the handling and arbitration of grievances


Most have a limited duration of one to three years

17

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

Decentralisation

of collective bargaining structures


Until the early 1980s, the structure of unionised collective
bargaining was a mixture of multi
-
employer, company
-
wide
and plant
-
level bargaining


Since that time, collective bargaining structures have been
progressively decentralised with the locus of bargaining
shifting away from company
-
wide agreements to the plant
level


Where company
-
wide agreements exist, corporate strategies
and product markets have resulted in greater diversity across
companies (reducing pattern bargaining)


Varying work practices and pay systems have also contributed
to collective bargaining decentralisation

18

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

Collective bargaining initiatives


In recent years, unions have made significant changes to the
process and outcomes of collective bargaining in an
innovative effort to extend their membership base


Corporate campaigns use media, political, financial,
community and regulatory pressures to build bargaining
power


Other strategies link collective bargaining to organising and
political strategies


triangulation strategies link organising,
politics and collective bargaining


Cross
-
national unionism remains an ongoing challenge for
unions to counteract the power of multinational enterprises
(MNEs), outsourcing and international economic pressures

19

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

The 2000s


US
-
based
MNEs

have faced increasing economic competition


Rising healthcare costs and benefits have resulted in tensions
in the union sector where employers have not been able to
unilaterally change benefits and/or increase employee
contribution payments as they have in the non
-
union sector


Retirement benefits were also a major issue for industries
with sizeable retiree ‘legacy’ costs


Outsourcing of services to overseas providers was a growing
concern


Despite these various pressures, the US employment relations
system remained relatively stagnant in the 2000s

20

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

Variations in employment practices


Employment practices in the US are diverse due to


varying economic pressures across industries


the presence of a large low
-
wage, non
-
unionised sector
where managerial prerogative is high


differences between the union and non
-
union sectors
including growth in non
-
union employment


imported employment practices of US
-
based MNEs


Diversity in employment practices is often linked to
diversity in pay systems

21

Chapter
3:

United States

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Copyright Allen & Unwin, 2011

The
Employee Free Choice Act


The labour movement’s major labour law reform initiative, the
Employee Free Choice Act
(EFCA) is yet to be passed and, in the event
that it becomes law, its impact on union density and power is
presently unclear


The EFCA’s major provisions involve:


allowing unions to organise through card check recognition


facilitation of speedy processing of unfair labour practice claims


increased penalties on employers who unlawfully discharge employees


provision of interest arbitration if the parties are unable to negotiate a first
contract


Whilst some of these changes are significant, they do not signal a
fundamental departure from the current system and they would not
reverse long term trends in decentralisation, the adversarial nature of
the US system or the lack of mandated employee
participation/consultation schemes


© Allen & Unwin, 2011. These slides are support material for
International and Comparative Employment Relations 5th edition
. Lecturers using the
book as a set text may freely use these slides in class, and may distribute them to students in their course
only
.
These slides may not be posted on
any university library sites, electronic learning platforms or other channels accessible to other courses, the university at
lar
ge or the general public.

International & Comparative
Employment Relations

5
th

edition

Edited by
Greg J
Bamber
,

Russell D Lansbury & Nick
Wailes

Conclusions


Diversity in US employment relations is high and
increasing due to growth in non
-
union employment and
the wide variety of union and non
-
union employment
and pay practices


There is wide variation in recent collective bargaining
practices and outcomes


Union revitalisation has resulted in various organising
and bargaining strategies as unions attempt to extend
membership in the face of increasing income inequality
and international pressures