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1107+Yates+-+Collective+Bargaining

1107+Yates+-+Collective+Bargaining - CHAPTER FOUR...

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CHAPTER FOUR COLLECTIVE BARGAINING Once a union has been formed, it seeks to establish the terms under which its members will work. Although unions used to simply set these conditions and refuse to work unless they were agreed to by the employer, today wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment are normally worked out through a process known as collective bargaining. A union formally recog- nized by the employer, either because of an election or voluntarily by the employer, has the right to negotiate with the employer, and the employer has an obligation to do so. The National Labor Relations Act requires the employer to bargain in "good faith."' This does not mean that the employer must come to an agreement with the union, only that it have "intent" to reach agreement. The union is the sole bargaining agent for all of the people in the bargaining unit (whether they are members of the union or not); this means that the employer must bargain with this union, with no other, and not with individual workers.' The process of reaching agreement with an employer, of arriving at a written collective bargaining agreement or contract, is difficult. Employers often en- gage in a variety of stalling tactics known as surface bargaining, that is, going through the motions of negotiating without having any real intent to reach agreement. They may cancel or delay meetings; they may agree to minor and costless union proposals but refuse to consider important ones; they may refuse to offer counterproposals to the union's demands; they may add new proposals just when it appears that agreement is close; and they may 53
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54 WHY UNIONS MATTER Let's make a deal: UAW and GM representatives open 1984 negotiations. (Jim West) take back agreement on bargaining items already concluded. These tactics are illegal, in bad faith, but the labor laws do not have enough teeth to deter employers from using them. If the union files an unfair labor practice grievance, it may be many months before the NLRB or a related agency makes a ruling. In the meantime, the workers may become demoralized at the failure of the union to get a contract, and the employer will take advantage of this by blaming the delay on the unreasonableness of the union. In addition, there is turnover in any workplace, so some union supporters may quit, retire, get injured, or die, all of which will sap the union's strength. Worst of all, if the board does rule against the employer, the typical penalty is simply for the employer to be ordered back to the bargaining table. There is no monetary penalty for an employer's refusal to bargain in good faith. The weakness of the law has led to a sharp rise in refusals to bargain and other unfair labor practices. Between the early 1950s and the beginning of the 1990s, these increased by nearly eight times, which is all the more discouraging since union membership was declining throughout most of this period.' The most important consequence of employer lawlessness is that it has become
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COLLECTIVE BARGAINING SS
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