Introduction to Labor Relations
Professor Bruce Fortado
University of North Florida
MAN 4401/6411 Labor Relations
When students enter Labor Relations class, they often bring some emotionally charged
opinions with them.
This is more the case in this course than it is in Human Resource
Management, Economics or Organization Behavior.
This course contains components
that are political and ideological. It also involves moral values.
The experiences students,
family members and friends have had all shape their outlooks toward labor unions.
This class has a unique perspective that many students have not seen before.
Most courses in business schools take a managerial perspective, and with the exception of
perhaps Business Ethics, little is said about improper managerial conduct.
Resource Management and Organization Behavior do mention the employees, Labor
Relations normally is approached from a more balanced labor-management perspective.
In some cases, Labor Relations has material written from the perspective of the workers
on the lower levels.
This can be quite a culture shock to some people who have only seen
a managerial perspective before.
In Europe, there is a relatively new outlook called “social constructionism.”
deals with how meanings are built via negotiating, networking, story telling, joking, etc.
Some people go a step further and talk about “deconstructionism.”
the fundamental assumptions governing a situation are sought out, and the power
inequities and injustices are considered from the viewpoint of the disenfranchised.
deconstructionist view involves a critique that may produce social change, or a
reconstruction of reality.
I believe, long before these schools of thought were in vogue,
Labor Relations scholars were looking at how social structures were built, they identified
the inequities that existed, and they sought social reforms.
Our goals will be to learn about the roots and growth of U.S. unions.
people have an incomplete and sometimes sugar coated view of U.S. history. When my
students leave this class, they should have a more complete picture. Second, press reports
tend to emphasize conflicts and scandals, rather than cooperation and normal day-to-day
We will strive to provide a balanced view of what exists.
Third, whether you
love unions or hate them, you will be better off if you can understand why we have our
current laws, the practices one commonly encounters, and the reasons certain behavior
I have found it useful historically to air some of the frequently encountered
viewpoints or criticisms of U.S. business unions.
(1) Are unions riddled with crooks?
During the 1950s there were Congressional inquiries into organized crime’s