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Language Arts: Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining consists of negotiations between an employer and a group of employees so as to determine the conditions of employment. The result of collective bargaining procedures is a collective agreement. Employees are often represented in bargaining by a union or other labor organization. Collective bargaining is governed by federal and state statutory laws, administrative agency regulations, and judicial decisions. In areas where federal and state law overlap, state laws are preempted.

- Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School

Though the term collective bargaining was not officially coined until 1891 by the English economist and socialist reformer Beatrice Webb, its presence in the workplace dates back to the legalization of trade unions in 1886.

"In the United States, the formation of the American Labor Union in 1886 was the seminal event in the legalization of collective bargaining," according to the Business Dictionary.

In 1890, however, the Sherman Antitrust Act nearly reversed that.

"Its prohibition of the cartel was also interpreted to make illegal many labor union activities," Wikipedia notes. "This is because unions were characterized as cartels as well (cartels of laborers). This persisted until 1914, when the Clayton Act created exceptions for certain union activities."

The right to collectively bargain was further solidified with the 1926 Railway Labor Act, which, according to the Business Dictionary, required employers to bargain with unions.

The result of such bargaining, of course, is a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

It is the expiration of just such an agreement that has led NFL owners to lock out their employees - the players.

The players have also voted to "decertify" their union - a strategic move that allowed them to suspend negotiations and move their dispute into the courts.

The NFL in turn filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board to block decertification in order to force the players back to table for further negotiations. In other words, the owners of the NFL would prefer collective bargaining to the courts. The players, on the other hand, say the NFL isn't collective bargaining in good faith.

(Even Donald Trump said this week that "collective bargaining doesn't bother me so much.")

*

The dispute over collective bargaining in Wisconsin is also heading to the courts. Perhaps NFL players will come to the aid of Wisconsin's workers.

Certainly some units of local government are on the side of their employees, not that of Gov. Scott Walker.

"Walker claims the anti-union provisions are necessary to balance the state budget without tax increases," Matt Pommer writes in the Superior Telegram. "He contends giving broad powers to local officials, such as allowing school boards to have total control over the hiring and firing process will help them balance services with limited revenues.

"Alas, none of the organizations representing local governments and school boards in Wisconsin had requested the revolution that Walker, in a Wall Street Journal column, called a 'bold political move.' The employer groups had sought changes in collective bargaining, not the Walker changes."

In other words, local governments and school boards wanted more flexibility in their dealings with public-sector unions but they never expressed a desire to wipe them out. Collective bargaining can work to the advantage of employers, too.

Consider:

The ultimate goal of the collective bargaining process is to come to an agreement that specifically lays out employees' wages, hours, promotions, benefits, and numerous other employment clauses and certitudes. And, in response to such specifications, given that challenges are bound to arise, the collective bargaining agreement is also set up to handle disputes that arise as a result.

It is an often tedious process, but one with a clearly defined road map that instantly secures provisions for all employees at once for a period of years.

That's why it's called collective and bargaining. Collective meaning we have been empowered by our members - as is their right - to negotiate on behalf of all employees at once to make it easy (and fair) for everyone. Bargaining because this is a negotiation by which each side will make concessions. We will strike a bargain.

What's so wrong with that?

-

Previously in Language Arts:
* Pushback.

* Locavore.

* Going Rogue.

* Rebalancing.

* Poor.

-

Comments welcome.



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Posted on March 16, 2011


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