Collective Bargaining (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The process through which a LABOR UNION and an employer negotiate the scope of the employment relationship.
A collective bargaining agreement is the ultimate goal of the collective bargaining process. Typically, the agreement establishes wages, hours, promotions, benefits, and other employment terms as well as procedures for handling disputes arising under it. Because the collective bargaining agreement cannot address every workplace issue that might arise in the future, unwritten customs and past practices, external law, and informal agreements are as important to the collective bargaining agreement as the written instrument itself.
Collective bargaining allows workers and employers to reach voluntary agreement on a wide range of topics. Even so, it is limited to some extent by federal and state laws. A collective bargaining agreement cannot accomplish by contract what the law prohibits. For example, a union and an employer cannot use collective bargaining to deprive employees of rights they would otherwise enjoy under laws such as the CIVIL RIGHTS statutes (Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36, 94 S. Ct. 1011, 39 L. Ed. 2d 147 ). Collective bargaining also cannot be used to waive rights or obligations that laws impose on either party. For example, an employer may not use collective...
(The entire section is 2999 words.)
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Collective Bargaining (Encyclopedia of Business and Finance)
Collective bargaining is "a process of negotiation between management and union representatives for the purpose of arriving at mutually acceptable wages and working conditions for employees" (Boone and Kurtz, 1999, pp. 424-425). Various methods may be used in the bargaining process, but the desired outcome is always mutual acceptance by labor and management of a collective bargaining agreement or contract.
THE BARGAINING PROCESS
The collective bargaining process begins when the majority of workers of an organization vote to be represented by a specific union. The National Labor Relations Board (see Labor Unions) then certifies the union. At this point, the management of the organization must recognize the union as the collective bargaining agent for all the employees of that organization. Once this part of the process is completed, collective bargaining can begin.
Bargaining always takes place between labor and management, but negotiations can include more than one group of workers and more than one employer. Single-plant, single-employer agreements are the most common. However, if an employer has more than one plant or work site, multiplant, single-employer agreements can be bargained. Several different union groups representing the workers of the same employer can use coalition bargaining. Industry wide bargaining involves one national union bargaining with several employers of a specific industry.
Many different negotiation styles can be used when union and labor representatives sit down at the bargaining table. The two basic modes of bargaining are traditional bargaining and partnership bargaining, though there are many variations of each style.
The traditional style of bargaining has been used since collective bargaining began between management and the early labor unions (see Labor Unions). It is an adversarial style of negotiating, pitting one side against the other with little or no understanding of, or education about, the other on the part of either party. Each side places its demands and proposals on the table, and the other side responds to them with counterproposals. The process is negative and involves a struggle of give-and-take on most issues. Even with its negative connotations, however, the traditional style of negotiating is still used effectively in bargaining many union contracts.
The partnership style of bargaining is the more modern approach to negotiations. It strives for mutual understanding and common education on the part of both labor and management, and it focuses on goals and concerns common to both parties. Because of its emphasis on each side's being aware of the issues concerning the other side, partnership-style bargaining is also known as interest-based bargaining. In this process, labor and management each list and explain their needs, and the ensuing discussion revolves around ways to meet those needs that will be not only acceptable but also beneficial to both parties. This style of bargaining is very positive and imparts a much more congenial atmosphere to the negotiating process. Many modern union-management contracts are bargained very successfully using the partnership style.
A blending of the traditional and partnership styles is widely used in labor-management negotiations. The combination approach is used for many reasons, including the fact that many union and management leaders are more familiar with the traditional style. However, with today's more participatory relationship between labor and management in the workplace, the partnership style is becoming more accepted and is being used more frequently. The negotiating process may also include both styles of bargaining because of the variety of issues being negotiated. The partnership style may be used to negotiate certain issues, while the traditional style may be invoked when bargaining other terms.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING ISSUES
Labor unions were formed to help workers achieve common goals in the areas of wages, hours, working conditions, and job security. These issues still are the focus of the collective bargaining process, though some new concepts have become the subjects of negotiations. Table 1 lists the issues most often negotiated in union contracts.
THE SETTLEMENT PROCESS
Union contracts are usually bargained to remain in effect for two to three years but may cover longer or shorter periods of time. The process of negotiating a union contract, however, may take an extended period of time. Once the management and union members of the negotiating team come to agreement on the terms of the contract, the union members must accept or reject the agreement by a majority vote. If the agreement is accepted, the contract is ratified and becomes a legally binding agreement remaining in effect for the specified period of time.
If the union membership rejects the terms of the agreement, the negotiating teams from labor and management return to the bargaining table and continue to negotiate. This cycle can be repeated several times. If no agreement can be reached between the two teams, negotiations are said to have "broken down," and several options become available.
Mediation is usually the first alternative when negotiations are at a stalemate. The two parties agree voluntarily to have an impartial third party listen to the proposals of both sides. It is the mediator's job to get the two sides to agree to a settlement. Once the mediator understands where each side stands, he or she makes recommendations for settling their differences. The mediator merely makes suggestions, gives advice, and tries to get labor and management to compromise on a solution. Agreement is still voluntary at this point. The mediator has no power to force either of the parties to settle the contract, though often labor and management do come to agreement by using mediation.
If mediation fails to bring about a settlement, the next step can be arbitration, which can be either compulsory or voluntary. Compulsory arbitration is not often used in labor-management negotiations in the United States. Occasionally, however, the federal government requires union and management to submit to compulsory arbitration. In voluntary arbitration, both sides agree to use the arbitration process and agree that it will be binding. As in mediation, an impartial third party serves in the arbitration process. The arbitrator acts as a judge, listening to both sides and then making a decision on the terms of the settlement, which becomes legally binding on labor and management. Ninety percent of all union contracts use arbitration if the union and management can't come to agreement (Boone and Kurtz, 1999).
SOURCES OF POWER
If the collective bargaining process is not working as a way to settle the differences between labor and management, both sides have weapons they can use to bolster their positions. One of the most effective union tactics is the strike or walkout. While on strike, employees do not report to work and, of course, are not paid. Strikes usually shut down operations, thus pressuring management to give in to the union's demands. Some employees, even though allowed to belong to unions, are not allowed to strike. Federal employees fall into this category. The law also prohibits some state and municipal employees from striking.
During a strike, workers often picket at the entrance to their place of employment. This involves marching, carrying signs, and talking to the media about their demands. The right to picket is protected by the U.S. Constitution as long as it does not involve violence or intimidation. Problems sometimes arise during strikes and picketing when management hires replacement workers, called scabs or strikebreakers, who
Collective Bargaining Issues
|Wages||Hours||Working Conditions||Job Security|
|Regular Compensation||Regular Work Hours||Rest Periods||Seniority|
|Overtime Compensation||Overtime Work Hours||Grievance Procedures||Evaluation|
need to cross the picket line in order to do the jobs of the striking workers.
The boycott is another union strategy to put pressure on management to give in to the union's demands. During a primary boycott, not only union members but also members of the general public are encouraged to refuse to conduct business with the firm in dispute with the union.
Though it is rarely done, management may use the lockout as a tactic to obtain its bargaining objectives. In this situation, management closes down the business, thus keeping union members from working. This puts pressure on the union to settle the contract so employees can get back to their jobs and receive their wages.
Management sometimes uses the injunction as a strategy to put pressure on the union to give in to its demands. An injunction is a court order prohibiting something from being done, such as picketing, or requiring something to be done, such as workers being ordered to return to work.
Once a collective bargaining agreement is settled and a union contract is signed, it is binding on both the union and management. However, disagreements with contract implementation can arise and violations of the contract terms can occur. In these cases, a grievance, or complaint, can be filed. The differences that must be resolved are usually handled through a step-by-step process that is outlined in the collective bargaining agreement. The grievance procedure begins with a complaint to the worker's immediate supervisor and, if unresolved at that level, moves upward, step by step, to higher levels of management. If no resolution is found at any of these levels, the two parties can agree to have the grievance submitted to an impartial outside arbitrator for a decision binding to the union and management.
Collective bargaining is a successful way for workers to reach their goals concerning accept able wages, hours, and working conditions. It al lows workers to bargain as a team to satisfy their needs. Collective bargaining also allows management to negotiate efficiently with workers by bar gaining with them as a group instead of with each one individually. Though traditional bargaining can be negative and adversarial, it does produce collective bargaining agreements between labor and management. Partnership bargaining can lead to increased understanding and trust between labor and management. It is a positive, cooperative approach to collective bargaining that also culminates in contracts between labor and management.
Boone, Louis E., and Kurtz, David L. (1999). Contemporary Business. Fort Worth, TX: Dryden Press.
Davey, Harold W. (1972). Contemporary Collective Bargaining. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Miernyk, William H. (1965). The Economics of Labor and Collective Bargaining. Boston: Heath.
Voos, Paula B., ed. (1994). Contemporary Collective Bargaining in the Private Sector. Madison, WI: Industrial Relations Research Association.
Wray, Ralph D., Luft, Roger L., and Highland, Patrick J. (1996). Fundamentals of Human Relations. Cincinnati, OH: South-Western Educational Publishing.