HOW TO SOLVE GRIEVANCES WITH
By: Pamela Beltrán
WHAT ARE UNIONS?
Unions are organizations that negotiate with corporations,
businesses and other organizations on behalf of union
members. There are trade unions, which represent workers
who do a particular type of job, and industrial unions, which
represent workers in a particular industry.
WHAT DO UNIONS DO?
Unions have often been credited with securing
improvements in working conditions and wages. Many
unions were formed in manufacturing and resource
companies, companies operating in steel mills, textile
factories and mines.
HOW DO UNIONS AFFECT LABOR
The power of labor unions rests in their two main tools of influence:
restricting labor supply and increasing labor demand. Through collective
bargaining, unions negotiate the wages that employers will pay. Unions
ask for a higher wage than the equilibrium wage (found at the intersect of
the labor supply and labor demand curves), but this can lower the hours
demanded by employers.
Unions have a unique legal position and in some sense, they operate like
a monopoly as they are immune to antitrust laws. Because unions
control, or can exert a good deal of influence on, the labor supply for a
particular company or industry, unions can restrict non-union workers
from depressing the wage rate. They are able to do this because legal
guidelines provide a certain level of protection to union activities.
WHAT CAN UNIONS DO DURING
When unions want to increase union member wages or request
other concessions from employers, they can do so through collective
bargaining. Collective bargaining is a process in which workers (through a
union) and employers meet to discuss the employment environment. Unions
will present their argument for a particular issue, and employers must decide
whether to concede to the workers' demands or to present counterarguments.
If unions are unable to negotiate, or are not satisfied with the outcomes of
collective bargaining, they may initiate a work stoppage or strike.
WHAT GOES IN A UNION CONTRACT?
There are no typical union contracts, because every workplace is
slightly different, and so are working conditions. However, some
basic things are the same.
All contracts are products of negotiations between the workers and
the boss. They are usually written in boring, legal terms, but these
are very important for securing your rights in the workplace.
A TYPICAL GRIEVANCE PORCESS
In a union environment, a typical grievance procedure begins with an employee
presenting a problem to his or her immediate supervisor within a certain time period
after the offending event has occurred. The supervisor then has a set amount of time
to either respond or send the grievance on to be addressed by the head of the
department. At this point, a union representative enters the negotiations on behalf of
the employee. If the situation is still not resolved, the grievance continues up the chain
of command to the plant manager and the president of the local union. If the labor
union fails to follow the procedures at any point, the contract usually specifies that it
must drop the grievance. Conversely, the company is usually obligated to resolve the
grievance in the employee's favor if management fails to follow the procedures
outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.
If the situation still cannot be resolved, the final step in the grievance process is for
both parties to present their side to an arbitrator.
WHAT IS A UNION CONTRACT?
A union contract - also called a "collective bargaining agreement" - is a legally
binding document that is binding by law between the employee and the employer.
It is negotiated with the employer and provides for, among other things, wages,
benefits, hours, general working conditions, and procedures for addressing
problems on the job. The advantages of having a Collective Agreement are many.
Among the biggest is that everyone is subject to the same rules -- no favoritism, no
wage disparity, not unjustified discipline.
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