On the book: Labor Relations: Striking a Balance by Budd, John W. The book talks and explores the relationship between labor and management in the context of history and law. Now in Chapter 2...

On the book: Labor Relations: Striking a Balance by Budd, John W. The book talks and explores the relationship between labor and management in the context of history and law.

Now in Chapter 2 "Labor Unions: Good or Bad?" _ What are your thoughts in the reading ? In addition, post a “good” thought provoking question base on the reading?   

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For a textbook published in 2004, John W. Budd’s Labor Relations: Striking a Balance is strikingly one-sided and outdated in its approach to labor relations.  To this educator, it reads more like something written 70 years ago.  Chapter Two, Labor Unions: Good or Bad?, discusses the myriad schools of thought on labor relations and the value of unionized labor in a capitalist economic system.  In so doing, Budd’s writing reflects an entirely “pro-union” perspective that provides no insights into contemporary issues surrounding collective bargaining and the role of organized labor in the welfare of major job-producing industries.  Unions were formed for valid reasons – abuse of workers subjected to long hours in unsafe working conditions with few or no benefits like medical care was the standard until unions were formed and grew in strength.  Additionally, the reasons for the emergence of unions remains valid today; absent collective bargaining agreements and union representation, management would too often be inclined to subject workers to unsatisfactory conditions.  Absent from Budd’s analysis, however, is the other side of the coin: what happens – indeed, what has happened – when unions become too powerful.  If management deficiencies create and sustain the need for organized labor, then union excesses have too often proven equally deleterious to the well-being of the corporation and, by extension, the jobs that corporation provides. 

Budd’s textbook, understandably, takes a very academic approach.  This is unsurprising given the purpose for which it was written: the education of students in the subject of labor relations.  That approach, however, is way too far removed from the realities of the world in which we live, and is entirely “U.S.-centric” in its approach.  Anyone who has followed the U.S. automotive industry for the last 40 years is well aware of the excesses to which the labor unions representing that industry’s workforce had gone in terms of institutionalizing absurd divisions of labor, prevailing in securing benefits out of proportion to the value of the work, and driving up production costs to such an extreme that the corporations became increasingly less competitive over time relative to foreign companies.  While managerial decisions with respect to automotive designs certainly contributed to the decline in competitiveness, and foreign government support for those countries’ indigenous industries cannot be discounted as important influences, it is equally certain that union excesses played a major role in the American industry’s decline.  Budd chose to ignore the impact of the excesses of U.S. labor unions, focusing instead on the depiction of labor as always noble and capital as always venal. 

As stated, labor unions arose out of legitimate needs, and those needs continue to exist to greater or lesser degrees.  Furthermore, U.S. support for the right to unionize in foreign countries where such rights have been denied to workers has long been an important component to this country’s foreign policy.  Freedom means the right of labor to organize.  That right should never be taken away.  It is wrong, however, to suggest that labor relations are as one-sided as Budd suggests in Chapter Two of his book.  Both sides of the equation – management and labor – are prone to excesses and to short-sighted policies that prove counterproductive in the long term.  Labor Relations, however, focuses way too much on one side of that equation, which is probably fine with most college professors.