- Describe the National Labor Relations Board.
The NLRB was established by the Wagner Act and has jurisdiction over most for-profit employers, private for-profit and nonprofit hospitals, and the U.S. Postal Service. It determines whether employees desire union representation and whether, under federal law, unions or companies have committed unfair labor practices.Explain the concept of “duty to bargain.”
Unions and employers have a mutual duty to bargain in good faith about wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment. Each must meet with the other when requested to negotiate an agreement, reduce it to writing, and interpret its meaning if disagreements arise. Neither is required to concede any issue to demonstrate good faith. Notifying the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) is required as a condition to modify a contract. Specific and more stringent requirements are laid out for health care organizations.
- What are the responsibilities of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service?
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) was established by the Taft-Hartley Act to help parties resolve labor disputes. In contract negotiation, it may mediate either through invitation or on its own motion. Mediators assist the parties in bargaining but have no power to impose settlements or regulate bargaining activity.
The FMCS offers preventive mediation and alternative dispute resolution programs, including problem resolution services for federal agencies as mandated by the Alternative Dispute Resolution and Negotiated Rule- making acts of 1990. It aids local labor-management cooperation programs through grants and technical assistance enabled by the Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978. To foster peaceful conflict resolution of employment issues internationally, the FMCS has provided mediator training in a number of developing economies.
It provides to requesting parties panels of private practice arbitrators, who are qualified under FMCS rules, from which the parties may choose one to hear and rule on a contract dispute.
- Explain what trade treaties are intended to achieve.
Trade treaties often include provisions for minimum labor standards. These are usually included to protect jobs in high-wage countries. Developing countries seldom can afford to duplicate conditions experienced in first-world countries. Prohibitions on child labor and forced (prison) labor may be somewhat easier to enforce.43 Area trade treaties, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), offer opportunities for international cooperation by unions. To this point, however, evidence suggests they have had a greater effect on nurturing national identities rather than international development.
- Briefly explain the responsibilities and qualifications of a union steward.
At the work-unit level, stewards are elected or appointed. Stewards police first-line supervisors’ compliance with the contract. Stewards represent grievant to the employer. They collect dues and solicit participation in union activities. Many collective bargaining contracts recognize the vulnerability of the steward’s advocative position by according it super seniority. Stewards are then, by definition, the most senior members of the unit. They often do not have experience representing employees before they assume their positions. Union training helps them learn their responsibilities, particularly understanding the goals of the union movement, understanding the contract, and communicating with mem- bers.5 Stewards are activists. Most are involved in other organizations outside their jobs. They average about 12 years of job experience and about 5.5 years of steward experience. About half are appointed, and only about 25 percent are opposed in elections. While stewards are union activists, union leaders see their roles as being grievance handlers or representatives who operate using a rational perspective. To be effective, stewards need to be well versed with regard to their legal rights and protections.
- Briefly describe the structure of national unions.
Beginning in the 1850s, a few national trade unions formed. These early unions have all disappeared or been merged into surviving unions. Until the Civil War, unions represented certain trades or industries, a pattern that ultimately prevailed in the United States. After the Civil War, however, the first major movements were increasingly national, without craft or indus- try distinctions. These early movements were strongly focused on major public policy issues. Immigration posed a problem for unions because while many members were immigrants, they feared the effects that further immigration would have on wages. Many civic organizations opposed open immigration and advocated literacy tests. Trade unions adopted these positions at the end of the 1800s, partly to attain mainstream institu- tional legitimacy.10
The National Labor Union (NLU) was founded in 1866. Its goals were largely political and reformist rather than economic or immediate. Its leader, William Sylvis, had been a founder of the National Molders’ Union in 1859. NLU goals included introduction of the eight-hour workday, establishment of consumer and producer cooperatives, reform of currency and banking laws, limitations on immigration, and establishment of a fed- eral department of labor.
The NLU was open not only to skilled-trades workers but also to other interested and sympathetic individuals. Suffragists, particularly prominent at its national meetings, attempted to get the NLU to endorse their efforts to gain voting rights for women.
Sylvis was the backbone of the NLU. His death in 1869 and its subsequent alliance with the Greenback Party in 1872 doomed the NLU. A lack of leadership and inattention to worker problems contributed to its demise. However, the first attempts to coordinate labor organizations nationally had begun—and would ultimately be successful.