There were three economic groups interacting in our simulation: workers represented by the union; business owners, represented by management; and the government, represented by the NLRB. In each of three paragraphs, describe the goals of each group and evaluate (in your own opinion) were they successful. Why or why not?
Not having access to the actual proceedings of the student’s working group, it is not possible to assess success or failure on the part of any or all the three economic groups involved in the negotiations. As the question states, that is a matter of each participant’s opinion.
The three groups at the negotiating table were the workers represented by their union, management of the organization, and the federal government in the person of representatives from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The latter organization, the NLRB, was established in 1935 during the Great Depression to protect workers from unfair business practices, especially in factories where the risks of injury were particularly high. The Board was created, in the words of the actual federal statute,
to eliminate the causes of certain substantial obstructions to the free flow of commerce and to mitigate and eliminate these obstructions when they have occurred by encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining and by protecting the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self- organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing, for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid or protection.
In short, workers are allowed to form labor unions to represent their interests in management-labor disputes. When looking at the composition of the table at which negotiations are taking place, then, it is essentially two against one, management against its employees and the employees’ federal representation.
The goals of each group are fairly easy to ascertain, as both workers and management presumably have already expressed their respective positions prior to convening the meeting or working group. Workers are generally pursuing better or more favorable conditions, including wages, better health care, vacation days, perhaps profit sharing, and safe working conditions (also mandated by federal law and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration). Depending upon the nature of the organization, worker demands might include smaller class sizes (in the case of teachers) or better equipment, more officers, and better local public support (in the case of law enforcement agencies). Specifics are dependent upon the type of organization.
The negotiations could involve police officers represented by their union and city and police department officials (i.e., the mayor’s office, city council, police commissioner) sitting across from each other at the table. Police work is obviously demanding and dangerous, although wages have greatly improved over the past several decades. Police officers’ demands might include those specified above regarding higher budgets for equipment and personnel.
Management of the organization, in this case city officials and high-ranking law enforcement officials, approach the labor dispute from a budgetary and broader political perspective. Governments at all levels (city, state, federal) are, in principle, supposed to function within specified budgets, the amount of money contingent on revenues raised through taxes and fees. Whether more officers can be hired and better equipment purchased hinges on the availability of funds. Another issue of concern to those seated on this side of the table is public perceptions of policing. This is an especially divisive environment in which to be a law enforcement officer, with questions of racial profiling being foremost in the minds of much of the public. Is management (i.e., mayor, etc.) concerned about the citizenry’s attitudes toward law enforcement? Have there been cases of questionable or downright inappropriate discharging of firearms on the part of police officers? Are segments of the public angry over perceptions of policing? All of these may be in the minds of those on this side of the table, in addition to budgetary concerns.
Finally, the role of the NLRB presumably stops when it has been established that the workers are duly represented by a union the leadership of which reflects the wishes of the majority of members of the union. NLRB representatives, however, may stick around to ensure that worker interests are protected, and that a breakdown in negotiations does not result in a deterioration in pubic safety. Nobody, presumably, wants intervention by the state’s governor, who may feel compelled to activate the National Guard to carry out the responsibilities of a police department implementing a worker slowdown in protest of unfair management practices. Some unions are prohibited by law from striking for the benefit of the public at large. Looking the other way at some categories of crime, however, is an option that can be exercised by police officers.
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