What are unions

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What are unions

  1. 1. How to Solve Grievances with Union Contracts Interview Useful information tounderstandthe subject,isthe goal of this summary 2010 KarlaPamelaBeltránCarrillo Universidaddel Valle de México 11/11/2010
  2. 2. What are unions? Unions are organizationsthatnegotiate withcorporations,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? Since the Industrial Revolution, unions have often been credited with securing improvements in working conditions and wages. Many unions were formed in manufacturing and resource companies,companiesoperating in steel mills, textile factories and mines. Over time, however, unions have spread into other industries. Unions are often associated with the "old economy": companiesthatoperate inheavilyregulatedenvironments.Today,alarge portion of membership is found in transportation, utilities and government. Howdo unions affect the labor environment? The powerof labor unions rests in their two main tools of influence: restricting labor supply and increasing labor demand. Some economists compare them to cartels. Through collective bargaining,unionsnegotiate the wagesthatemployerswillpay.Unionsaskfora higherwage than the equilibrium wage (found at the intersect of the labor supply and labor demand curves), but thiscan lowerthe hours demanded by employers. Since a higher wage rate equates to less work perdollar,unionsoftenface problemswhennegotiatinghigherwagesandinsteadwilloftenfocus on increasing the demand for labor. Unionshave a unique legal positionandin 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 depressingthe wage rate.Theyare able todo thisbecause legal guidelines provide a certain level of protection to union activities. What can unions do during negotiations? When unions want to increase union member wages or request other concessions from employers,theycando sothroughcollective bargaining.Collectivebargainingisaprocessin which workers(throughaunion) andemployersmeet to discuss the employment environment. Unions will presenttheirargumentforaparticularissue,andemployersmustdecidewhether to concede to the workers' demands or to present counterarguments. The term "bargaining" may be misleading, as it brings to mind two people haggling at a flea market. In reality, the goal of the union in collective bargaining is to improve the status of the worker while still keeping the employerinbusiness.The bargainingrelationshipiscontinuous, ratherthanjustaone-time affair. If unionsare unable tonegotiate,orare not satisfied with the outcomes of collective bargaining, they may initiate a work stoppage or strike.
  3. 3. 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. Definition: all contractsare productsof negotiationsbetweenthe workersandthe boss.Theyare usuallywritteninboring,legalterms, but these are very important for securing your rights in the workplace. According to labor law, contracts represent the minimum compensation and benefits for employees.Anemployermayofferrightsandbenefitsthat exceed the minimum standards set in an existing contract. It should also be pointed out that all workers in the workplace should know what's in their contract, because the bossesoftenwill trytoviolate contracts(thatiswhywe electshopstewards and negotiate grievance procedures).The employercanonlysucceedinundermining the contract if the workers don't stand up for their rights. List of typical Contract Provisions  Union Shop - A provision that states that all employees must belong to the union as a condition of employment.  No discrimination policy - employers cannot discriminate against employees because of union membership, age, creed, color, sexual preference, religion, etc.  Grievance procedure - one of the cornerstones of unionism. This system provides a way for most conflicts between management and employees to be peacefully resolved. If an employee feels he or she has been wronged and cannot resolve it with management, a union representative will meet with a management representative and try to resolve the issue. If that fails, another attempt is made with the management representative's superior. If that fails, an outside arbitrator is called in, whose word is binding on both parties.  Hours & Overtime defined - usually40 hours at 8 hours a day. If more than 8 hours in one day or 40 hours in one week are worked, overtime must be paid.  Work breaks defined - usually two 15 minute breaks per 8 hours worked.  UnionStewards - unionstewardsare simplyemployeeswho are elected to represent the union on the job site. They make sure the contract is not violated, help employees that have problems with management, and handle most of the grievance procedure etc.  No strike/no lockout - during the duration of the contract, the union may not strike and management may not lock employees out of the workplace.
  4. 4.  Appeal from discharge - in the eventthatan employee isfired,he orshe can appeal tothe union for help within 30 days.  Wages- Unioncontracts will usuallydefine what the base rate of pay is. If a union simply cannot secure a direct raise, there are other options available in getting better compensation for employees.  Sunday premium pay - compensates employees at a greater rate for working Sunday.  Birthday as a holiday - Happy Birthday! Take the day off!  Health care - Most unions will work to insure that the employee has no monthly contribution.  Pensionfund- the contract statesthat the employerwill contribute somuchpermonthto a pension fund. There are manyotherthingsthat can and do gointo contracts:theyare tailoredfor each industry, shop, factory, etc. Some contracts will have special provisions for unusual cases. Some contracts may be "industry-wide" representing all workers in the same line of work for an entire region. Even collectively owned workplaces might have a union contract that protect the democratic rights of each worker-owner. A typical grievance process In a union environment, a typical grievance procedure begins with an employee presenting a problemtohisor her immediatesupervisorwithinacertaintime periodafterthe offending event has occurred. The supervisor then has a set amount of time to either respond or send the grievance onto be addressedbythe headof the department.Atthispoint,aunionrepresentative enters the negotiations on behalf of the employee. If the situation is still not resolved, the grievance continuesupthe chainof commandto the plantmanagerand the president of the local union.If the laborunionfailstofollow 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 situationstill cannotbe resolved,the final stepinthe grievanceprocessisforboth parties to present their side to an arbitrator. The arbitrator's role is to determine the rights of both parties under the labor agreement, and his or her decision is usually final. The labor contract generally specifies the type of arbitrator used, the method of selecting the arbitrator, the scope of the arbitrator's authority, and the arrangements for the arbitrator's payment. A potential intermediate stepinvolvespresentingthe grievance toamediator,whose jobistohelpthe parties solve theirown differences before they reach the formal arbitration phase. Mediation is usually
  5. 5. less time consuming and expensive than arbitration. In addition, the mediator may be able to teach the two parties dispute resolution skills that may be helpful in solving future problems. What is a union contract? A unioncontract - also calleda "collective bargaining agreement" - is a legally binding document that isbindingbylawbetweenthe employee andthe employer.Itisnegotiatedwiththe 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. A CollectiveAgreementhasaset startingandendingdate.Once the new Agreementisnegotiated, it mustbe presentedtothe membersinaratificationvote. Members have a choice of whether to accept or reject the Agreement. If a majority of those voting votes to accept the Agreement, it officially becomes the contract that governs everyone's employment until it is renegotiated. Afterthe Agreementisratified,itbecomes the union's job to make sure management lives up to it.If managementtriestodosomething inwhich is not allowed under the Collective Agreement, the union can launch a “grievance”. A grievance is a charge that management has violated the Agreement.If management does not agree to make changes, the grievance can go all the way to Arbitration,where aneutral thirdpartytrainedinworkplace disputes will decide the issue, much like a judge in a court.

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