Employee Relations: The working relationship between the employer and employees which encompasses the rights of each party, how decisions are made, and how problems are resolved. In union companies this function is also called labor relations or industrial relations. A major step toward establishing industrial peace occurred when federal laws endorsed collective bargaining as the primary method of resolving disagreements.
In 1935 the National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) established the legal right for labor unions to exist. Before that time, the existence of unions was uncertain and threatened. Labor leaders had lobbied for the passage of several state and federal laws only to see them nullified or used against unions after they were passed. During the 1800s four major tactics were used against unions.
Conspiracy Doctrine: A weapon used against labor unions in the early 1800s where judges found that unions caused or planned to cause an injustice to other people or society. (Philadelphia Cordwainers case and Commonwealth v. Hunt) Court Injunctions: An injunction is a court order that directs a person or group to refrain from pursuing a course of action. In most cases an injunction is used to protect property rights, which include the rights to hire workers, to sell goods, and to run a business in a profitable manner. (Debs case) Yellow-Dog Contracts: A statement employees were required to sign in which they agreed not to join a union. Antitrust Statutes: Union leaders thought the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 would protect them from powerful and hostile corporations. Although this law made no specific references to labor organizations, unionists found that it limited a variety of vital union activities. Unions were interpreted by the courts as illegal combinations in restraint of interstate commerce when they attempted to strike an employer or to boycott an employer’s products. When the Clayton Act was passed, the unions believed they had finally succeeded in winning their freedom. This law stated that labor was not a commodity or an article of commerce and that the antitrust laws could not be construed to forbid the existence of labor unions. To their dismay, unionists soon found that the Clayton Act was also worthless. They already had the right to exist. What they needed was the right to use economic sanctions, especially strikes, against employers who refused to recognize them and bargain collectively. The Supreme Court continued to interpret the laws with such sweeping pronouncements that any strike for any purpose was considered unlawful if it diminished the amount of goods in interstate trade. (Danbury Hatters case and Coronado case)
Federal Anti-Injunction Act: Encouraged the formation of labor unions by neutralizing the differential power between employees and employers. Limited the power of the courts to intervene in labor disputes, by limiting the use of court injunctions. The act was intended to encourage collective bargaining, but workers still lacked the protection they needed to effectively engage in collective bargaining activities. Major provisions of the Norris-LaGuardia Federal Anti-Injunction Act include: The courts are not allowed to decide the legality of a strike. The courts are not allowed to restrict labor unions from giving aid, such as strike relief funds, to members engaged in a labor dispute. The courts are not allowed to restrain the picketing activities of unions as long as such activities are free from violence and fraud. Unions are allowed to encourage nonstriking members to join in the conflict provided that the campaign for participation is free from violence and fraud. The courts are not allowed to restrict unions from assembling peacefully or from conducting meetings. The courts are not allowed to enforce yellow-dog contracts.
Although Norris-LaGuardia restricted court interference in labor disputes, it did not restrict interference from other parties, especially employers. The act was intended to encourage collective bargaining, but workers still lacked the protection they needed to effectively engage in collective bargaining activities. Most threatening activities to collective bargaining were: Industrial espionage: Employers hired agents from their own organizations, or from professional detective agencies, to spy on union members. These spies tried to destroy the union from within by advocating violence and destruction, by discrediting union leaders, and by destroying the faith of other workers in the union. Attacks on union leaders: Many union leaders were killed or beaten by hit men hired by employers to discourage union activity. Strike-breaking tactics: Many employers tried to destroy the union by making strikes ineffective. Some strikes were broken when employers refused to negotiate with the union and encouraged workers to return to work. The formation of company unions: A less violent method of controlling union activities was for a company to organize and dominate its own union. These company unions sometimes attempted to resolve worker grievances, but they usually did not allow for genuine collective bargaining over wages and other important issues. A company union ultimately represented the interests of the company, not the employees.
National Labor Relations Act: Employees shall have the right: to self-organize to form, join, or assist labor organizations to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing to engage in concerted activities, for the purpose of collective bargaining Congress identified five unfair labor practices and declared them unlawful: It is an unfair labor practice for an employer to “interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights. It is an unfair labor practice for an employer to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of a labor union. It is an unfair labor practice for employers to allow union membership or activity to influence hiring, firing, promotion, or other employment decisions. It is an unfair labor practice to discharge or discriminate against an employee who has filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) or given testimony to the NLRB. It is an unfair labor practice for an employer to refuse to bargain in good faith with representatives of the employees. The Wagner Act established the NLRB and gave it the authority to administer the act in a peaceful and democratic manner. or other mutual aid or protection.
Labor Management Relations Act: The NLRA was amended in 1947 by the Labor Management Relations Act, popularly called the Taft-Hartley Act.16 Under the provisions of this act, collective bargaining was retained as the basic direction of national labor policy, but greater restrictions were imposed, especially on unions. The Taft-Hartley Act amendments concern four basic issues: (a) unfair labor practices by unions, (b) the rights of employees as individuals, (c) the rights of employers, and (d) national emergency strikes. Unions are not allowed to restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of their collective bargaining rights. Unions are not allowed to force an employer to discriminate in any way against an employee in order to encourage or discourage union membership. Unions are required to bargain in good faith with employers regarding wages, hours, and conditions of employment. This requirement means that unions must make the same good faith efforts as employers to meet and make counter proposals in a sincere effort to reach agreement. Unions are not allowed to conduct certain types of strikes or boycotts. Unions are not allowed to charge excessive initiation fees or membership dues when all employees are required to join a union shop. Unions are not allowed to force employers to pay for work or services that are not needed or not performed—a practice called featherbedding.
Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act: The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) regulates the internal conduct of labor unions. The act focuses on five major areas: a bill of rights for union members reports to the Secretary of Labor union trusteeships conduct of union elections financial safeguards Major provisions of this act include: Grants equal rights and privileges to every union member with regard to the nominating of candidates, voting in elections, attending union meetings, and voting in these meetings. Every member is given the right to meet and assemble freely with other members to express views, arguments, and opinions. Increases in dues and fees must be approved by the union membership majority. Members who have been wronged by the union and cannot obtain justice through normal union procedures are guaranteed the right to sue the union in a civil suit. Union members may not be fined, expelled, or otherwise disciplined, except for nonpayment of dues, unless certain procedural steps are taken to insure due process. Labor organization is required to submit a copy of its constitution and bylaws plus annual financial reports. If an international union takes control of a local union, it is required to provide a rational justification for its action and detailed reports of its activities, especially its financial transactions. National unions are required to hold elections at least once every five years; local unions, at least once every three years; and intermediate bodies, every four years. Voting must be by secret ballot and among members in good standing or by delegates chosen by secret ballot. Election results must be retained for at least one year. Union officers are required to manage and invest union funds in strict accordance with the constitution and bylaws of the union. The act requires unions to: follow democratic procedures in electing officers and creating union policies file reports with the Secretary of Labor. report all of the money, benefits, special loans, or other things of value they receive on Form LM-30
Local Unions: Local unions generally represent a group of employees working in one area for a particular employer. These local unions have the most direct contact with union members, and the members rely on their local union for social interaction, economic support, and political power. Local unions vary greatly in size and power—from as small as less than 10 members to as large as more than 40,000 members. National or International Unions: National and international unions are collections of local unions, usually in the same industry. Each of the 173 national unions has its own constitution, which establishes the rules and conditions for chartering the local unions. Most national unions have the power to approve or disapprove agreements negotiated at the local level, to decide whether a strike by a local union is legitimate, to supervise elections of local officers, to audit the records of local unions, to remove local officers for improper actions, and to place the local union in trusteeship for violating the national union’s rules. Local unions also are required to pay dues to their national union. In return for what they receive from local unions, national unions provide a variety of services for the local unions. National unions also provide various indirect services such as education and research, public relations campaigns, lobbying activities to influence legislation, communications to members, and administration of benefits and pension plans.
The AFL-CIO is a large and powerful federation of labor. Fifty-seven national unions plus numerous independent, local, and regional unions belong to this federation. The AFL-CIO represents approximately 12.2 million workers. The chief governing body of the AFL-CIO is its executive council and representatives from the national unions who meet in a national convention every four years. This group meets three times a year and sets policy between conventions. The AFL-CIO also has a large staff that provides information, advice, research, and public relations for the national and local unions.
Change to Win: In 2005, seven national unions formed a new coalition called Change to Win because of their dissatisfaction with the AFL-CIO. Their dissatisfaction stemmed largely from the AFL-CIO’s extensive involvement in political campaigns and inadequate efforts to recruit new members. Since these were some of the largest members of the AFL-CIO, their disaffiliation significantly reduced the AFL-CIO’s membership and budget by about one third. It is unclear whether Change to Win will act as a competing federation, challenging the dominance of the AFL-CIO and its affiliates, or merely as a loose confederation of unions that coordinate efforts for the purpose of organizing. The new coalition, which is now down to just four unions, declared its intention to focus on recruiting new union members at the local, national, and international levels and especially on employees working for large international companies.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was established by Congress through the Wagner Act. The purpose of the NLRB is to protect the rights of employees, employers, unions, and the general public. To protect these rights, the NLRB performs two major functions: conducting representation elections and resolving unfair labor practices.
Organizing a Union: The first step is to get at least 30 percent of the workers in a company to sign authorization cards calling for a union to represent them. After 30 percent of the workers have expressed an interest, they can petition the NLRB for a representation election. The NLRB then investigates four issues: (1) whether the company falls within the jurisdiction of the NLRB; (2) who should represent which workers; (3) whether there is enough worker interest (at least 30 percent); and (4) whether there are any election bars, such as if another petition has been filed within the past year. A company must exceed a certain dollar volume of business or the NLRB will not respond to the petition. If a company is too small to come under the jurisdiction of the NLRB, its case is left to the jurisdiction of state laws, which may or may not exist. Decertifying a Union: The process for decertifying a labor union follows the same procedure as for organizing one. The NLRB must receive a petition from at least 30 percent of the workers calling for an election. After the usual investigation, an election is held. If less than 50 percent vote in favor of the union, the union is decertified. (Levitz Furniture Co. of the Pacific)
After a union has won an election and negotiated an agreement, it faces the problem of member apathy. Many members do not want to continue supporting union activities or paying union dues. Consequently, unions have designed several arrangements to assure continued membership. Closed Shop: A closed shop requires that only union members be hired. Applicants for employment must already belong to the union. The Taft-Hartley Act outlaws a closed shop, except for hiring halls in the construction industry, but they exist anyway in such industries as the longshore workers. Union Shop: A union shop requires everyone who is hired to join the union within a prescribed period, usually 30 days. Temporary workers, part-time help, and student interns may be exempted from membership in what is sometimes called a modified shop. Union shops are not legal in the 22 states that have right-to-work laws. Agency Shop: An agency shop recognizes the union as the bargaining agent for both union and nonunion employees and requires everyone to pay union dues, regardless of whether they are members or nonmembers. The fees, called “agency fees” are usually deducted from employees’ paychecks, and are intended to prevent nonmembers from sharing the benefits obtained by the union’s collective bargaining without sharing the costs incurred. Agency shop clauses are also illegal in states with right-to-work laws. Maintenance of Membership: A maintenance-of-membership shop requires that employees who join voluntarily must continue paying their membership dues until the present contract expires. Dues Check-off: A dues check-off provision allows union dues to be paid directly to the union by the company’s payroll office, if a member signs an affidavit agreeing to such a payroll deduction. Union members can insist, however, on paying their own dues, which usually results in delinquent accounts. The Taft-Hartley Act requires companies to obtain written permission each year from employees to have their dues automatically withheld.
The basic issue is whether everyone should be required to join a union if the union wins an election, or whether individuals should be free to abstain from joining the union if they choose not to. On one hand, workers who are concerned about individual freedoms claim that being required to join a union deprives them of their free agency in being able to obtain employment and work at a job of their choosing, free from interference by a labor organization. On the other hand, individuals who are concerned about union security claim that it is unfair for an individual to work alongside other union workers, enjoying the blessings of their efforts, dedication, and sacrifices without having to join the union, pay union dues, or accept the normal obligations of a union member. Since only 40 percent of the states have passed a right-to-work law as provided by section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, there is apparently much room for debate on both sides of the issue.
The NLRB handles about 25,000 cases each year. Only one-third of the complaints are found to have merit, and of these cases 90 percent are settled. Many charges are dropped after a contract has been successfully negotiated. Other cases are dismissed by the NLRB because they are trivial or because the NLRB does not have enough time to handle them. The NLRB faces a constant challenge to improve its efficiency since the full procedure from charge to complaint to hearing by a law judge to board ruling normally requires a full year.
Filing a Charge with the NLRB: An unfair labor practice is any action by either the union or management that is prohibited by law or NLRB ruling. Every case originates in one of the regional offices as a charge or petition that has been filed by an individual or organization. Unfairlabor practice charges can be submitted in person or by mail, and they must be filed within six months after the alleged practice was committed. Preliminary NLRB Investigation and Settlement Agreements - Formal and Informal: The regional offices of the NLRB investigate the charges by assigning a field examiner or an attorney to take written statements and affidavits from available witnesses. Regional offices try to dispose of the cases informally through withdrawal, settlement, or dismissal. If a case is not closed by one of these informal methods, a formal complaint is issued by the regional director to the general counsel. The general counsel may dismiss the case, leaving the complaining party with no recourse other than to sue the NLRB in the federal courts, or the general counsel may refer the case to the board for a ruling. Complaints and Hearings: Before a case goes before the full board, a formal hearing is held. An administrative law judge conducts the hearing according to the rules of evidence and procedures of the United States District Courts and then issues a decision. Any party that disagrees with the judge’s decision may appeal to the Five-Member Board of the NLRB. Judicial Review of NLRB Orders: After the NLRB issues a decision, a dissatisfied party may appeal to the federal court of appeals and then to the Supreme Court to review the case. This process may take several years. In a typical year, about 50 percent of the NLRB’s rulings are appealed, and approximately 85 percent of these rulings are upheld.
Unfair Labor Practices: Interference, Restraint, and Coercion Threats of Reprisal Promise of Benefit Solicitation of Grievances Restricting Employee Activity Surveillance and Interrogation of Employees Inciting Antiunion Activity Discrimination for Exercising Rights Discipline/Discharge for Union Activity No-Solicitation Rules
Prior to the passage of the Wagner Act, many companies established company unions for the benefit and support of their employees. These company unions, however, were run by management and did not serve as effective bargaining representatives of the employees. To eliminate this situation, the Wagner Act declared that company-dominated unions were illegal. Financial Assistance: Section 8(a)(2) declares that it is an unfair labor practice for an employer “to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it . . . .” Therefore, companies are not allowed to participate or assist with the formation or administration of any labor organization or to contribute either financial or nonfinancial support to it. Labor-Management Participation Teams: Employers must use caution in creating quality improvement committees that include members of both management and labor. The quality movement has prompted many organizations to implement employee participation teams to improve productivity, quality, or efficiency. The effectiveness and importance of these committees is indicated by their continued use and popularity among both employers and employees. The NLRB has ruled, however, that these programs may be considered “employer dominated” labor organizations, which are prohibited by the NLRA even in non-union companies, unless they satisfy rather strict guidelines regarding the issues they address and how members are selected. Landmark Cases: Electromation DuPont Crown Cork & Seal Co
Unions are required to bargain in good faith with employers and they are restricted from discriminating against employees who do not support them in the same way that employers are restricted. Unions may not coerce employees to support them or threaten, restrain, or discriminate against them if they refuse to join the union. Both employers and unions are restricted from coercing employees. The need for these restrictions has been evident in cases such as the George A. Hormel Packing company strike when the company asked the United Food and Commercial Workers Union members to make wage concessions that would allow it to continue operations but the union refused to accept them. The strike that ensued from these failed negotiations became very bitter and controversial and its destructive effects have been evident for years. The union leaders refused to negotiate wage concessions in part because the leaders of other local unions had been replaced for making concessions. However, the meat packing industry was suffering severe economic problems because of a reduction in the consumption of red meat. The leaders of Local 9 hired consultants to conduct a corporate campaign of harassment by getting union members to cease dealing with a local bank. The pressure tactics were unsuccessful, however, and the striking workers were replaced. Years after the strike, the town of Austin, Minnesota, is still divide and torn with vandalism, segregated restaurants, and bitter feelings. In this labor impasse, it is clear that the antagonistic and combative relationship was harmful to both sides. The union leaders were fighting for their leadership positions and the company was fighting for its economic survival. It is not clear whether a softer position by the union leaders could have saved their leadership positions. But, if they were to start over, a possible solution might have been a temporary concession by the union with promises of renegotiation when the economic outlook improved. Strikes are often violent because of the inherent nature of the incompatible goals of the company and the union. Even within the union there may be inconsistent goals among the members. Those who do not support the strike want to return to work and are willing to cross the picket lines. Knowing that if enough workers cross the picket lines the strike will lose its effectiveness causes those on the picket lines to try to physically prevent anyone from crossing. Since physically stopping them is against the law, they use psychological pressure, such as name calling.
The Taft-Hartley Act requires that both parties engage in good-faith bargaining, or they will be guilty of an unfair labor practice. Both parties must be willing to meet at reasonable times, in reasonable places, to discuss each party’s bargaining issues. A serious attempt must be made to adjust differences and to reach an acceptable common ground. A counterproposal must be offered when another party’s proposal is rejected A position on contract terms may not be constantly changed. Evasive behavior during negotiations is not permitted. There must be a willingness to incorporate oral agreements into written contract.
An Economic strike is caused by disagreement over the terms and conditions of employment, such as wages, benefits, or work schedules. An unfair labor practice strike is caused by a condition of employment that violates one of the labor laws or an NLRB ruling.
Strikes and lockouts generally do not occur as long as both parties continue negotiating. Even if an agreement hasn’t been reached, if both sides feel that progress is being achieved, the strike or lockout will be postponed until the negotiations break down. Before the employees go out on strike, it is important for them to know why they are striking and whether the strike is strongly supported by a majority of the union members. A prolonged strike typically weakens the union members’ loyalty to the union, and some long, unsuccessful strikes have resulted in either the removal of the present union officers or decertification of the union. When the union leaders decide that the present proposal by management is not acceptable, they should also decide how much the proposal must be improved before they are willing to terminate the strike and come back to work. An assessment should also be made of the economic strength of the union, the company, and the individual employees. Some companies have been known to stockpile materials with the expectation of a prolonged strike, during which inventories are reduced. Some unions have accumulated large strike funds and decide to go out on strike as much for a paid vacation for the union members as for a bargaining tactic. Most union employees suffer financially from going on strike. Before they vote to go out on strike, most union members should realize that the improved wage package they are seeking over the next two or three years will probably not offset the wages lost during the strike. It is usually in their best economic interests (especially in the short run) to accept the latest offer by management.
Before going on strike, union members should know why they are striking and what they hope to gain. Although strikes are usually called for economic reasons, they cannot ordinarily be justified economically. More income is usually lost during the strike than the workers can hope to recover through higher wages and benefits in a new contract. Pre-Strike: If a company plans to close during a strike, it should notify vendors, clients, and others who will be affected. If it plans to continue operations, however, extensive preparations are needed. Some of these preparations include: • Preparing a strike memo for all supervisors and managers explaining their specific responsibilities. • Teaching supervisors and security personnel their duties in maintaining the security of the physical plant and equipment and the safety of people. • Training supervisors and managers how to avoid unnecessary provocation and which laws apply to their conduct during a strike. • Establishing a communication center and a command post, which could be simply a designated office with a telephone. • Locating a warehouse away from the plant to store in-transit supplies. Notifying vendors of its location and keeping it staffed. • Notifying the local unemployment office of the availability of job openings. • Paying all money owed to employees on the first day of the strike. • Posting “No Trespassing” signs at appropriate locations and securing the facility. • Gathering evidence that may be needed in legal proceedings, such as names of picketers and a complete description of all picketing activity. Moving Personnel in and out of the Facility: Strike-related violence often occurs when replacement workers are moving into or out of a facility. Procedures can be implemented to minimize the opportunity for violence: • Provide protection for replacement workers coming into and leaving the facility. • Arrange for shifts to start at different times so workers are inside the facility before picketers arrive. • Arrange for meals to be served inside the plant. • Arrange for workers to stay overnight in the plant when necessary. • Avoid contact with strikers. • Provide transportation for workers from a central location.
The NLRB and the courts have classified bargaining issues into the following categories: Illegal Items: Illegal bargaining items are issues that may not be negotiated at the bargaining table, such as yellow-dog contracts, closed shop agreements, compulsory check-off programs, and hotcargo agreements. Mandatory Items: Mandatory bargaining items include wages or salaries, hours of work, subcontracting, stock purchase plans, profit-sharing plans, pension and employee welfare plans, Christmas bonuses, workloads and production standards, and plant rules. Labor and management must bargain in good faith on these mandatory items, and they may bargain to an impasse without violating the unfair labor practice provisions. Unions may strike to obtain mandatory items, and employers may refuse to sign a contract unless their version of these items is included in the contract. Voluntary Items: Voluntary bargaining items are issues that may be discussed at the bargaining table but may not be bargained to an impasse. Employers cannot make voluntary items a condition for signing a labor contract. Unions may not strike over voluntary items, such as demanding that a company contribute to an industry-wide promotion fund or a strike insurance plan.
Most labor agreements include seven major bargaining issues: compensation and benefits working conditions job security discipline procedures and individual rights union security contract duration management prerogatives
There are four kinds of bargaining structures: Single union-single employer bargaining Multi-employer bargaining (coalition bargaining) Coordinated bargaining National/local bargaining
Bargaining Process The bargaining process usually consists of four stages: 1. Opening presentation of demands: Both sides present their demands. The union typically goes first, management team asks questions to clarify the issues. The first meeting is especially crucial. The rules and procedures that will be followed throughout the negotiations usually are decided at the first meeting. 2. Analyzing the demands: Demands submitted by each side. The negotiators have to examine each other’s lists and try to identify which are the real issues. Unrealistic demands tend to antagonize the other team and to cause unnecessary deadlocks.The order in which the demands are discussed can become a serious negotiating issue in itself. Unions prefer to strike over the most important issues, and they like to have these issues discussed at the end of a bargaining agenda. 3. Compromise: When the interests of both sides are not identical, a compromise must be achieved. Compromises can be obtained by each side making counter proposals until an agreement is reached. 4. Informal settlement and ratification: After both sides have obtained what they feel is their best compromise, they have to return to their reference groups for approval. Top management must examine the tentative agreement and decide whether it allows them to operate the company efficiently and profitably. Union representatives have to decide whether the membership will ratify the contract. If the majority of those who vote approve the agreement, then it is ratified and becomes a binding agreement between the company and union for the duration of the contract period. Written copies of the agreement are prepared and distributed to each member.
Distributive bargaining refers to a confrontive bargaining strategy in which each side battles to obtain the maximum amount possible. In essence, both sides are fighting over who gets the largest piece of the profit pie. Integrative bargaining is a problem-solving approach to bargaining in which both sides try to identify what each can do to increase the size of the pie and create a more compatible working relationship. The main reason why collective bargaining is almost always a distributive bargaining encounter is because an integrative bargaining strategy would probably make a union unnecessary. If management and labor developed a compatible working relationship so that both sides were attempting to increase the size of the profit, it is likely that a climate of cooperation and trust would exist and neither side would feel the need for an organized union.
Bargaining Zones The areas in which each side is willing to negotiate comprise the bargaining zone. Each side has a tolerance limit and will refuse to negotiate on issues that exceed its limit.
Some of the most important principles for effective negotiations include the following ideas: Separate emotions and issues Set priorities Prepare thoroughly Ascertain what is really driving the other side’s agenda Keep and open mind Never say never Strive for win-win solutions
Concession Bargaining In 1980, Chrysler Corporation was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy in spite of receiving federally insured loans. The president, Lee Iacocca, told members of the United Auto Workers Union that Chrysler would soon have no $22-an-hour jobs, but that if they agreed to his proposed wage concessions, they would still have many $17-an-hour jobs. The union members accepted the wage reductions partly because the white collar employees had made similar reductions (Iacocca’s salary was just one dollar), and partly because it was obvious that the concessions were necessary to save the company and their jobs. The concessions won by Chrysler set a pattern for many collective bargaining agreements by companies that are struggling financially. Negotiations that result in wage reductions or work rule “give backs” are called concession bargaining. The major economic factors that lead to concession bargaining include increased international competition, deregulation of key industries, and technological innovations. The reasons why union leaders are willing to accept wage reductions indicate that the most important motive is a belief that the concessions are necessary.
Duty to Provide Relevant Information: An employer has a duty to provide information the union requests that is relevant to negotiating a collective bargaining agreement. This information might include: • Labor costs, including wages, benefits, and pensions for union members. • Information pertaining to wage increases granted to nonbargaining unit employees. • Information about chemical substances in the work environment and medical problems of employees. Limitations to the Duty to Disclose: An employer does not have an unlimited duty to provide all information requested by a union. Some kinds of information an employer is not required to provide include: • Information that would violate the privacy of an employee. • Information that would disclose an employer’s trade secrets or confidential financial reports. • Information that would be prohibitively costly or burdensome to provide. • Information the union requests in bad faith, such as information that is not needed for collective bargaining purposes or that will be used in a negative publicity campaign. Unlawful Circumvention: An employer is not allowed to circumvent the collective bargaining process by negotiating directly with employees regarding mandatory bargaining issues. Notice Requirements: If either the employer or the union want to terminate or alter the conditions of an existing collective bargaining agreement, the initiating party is required to provide 60 days advance notice before the expiration of the agreement or the modification is to occur. The initiating party must also notify the state mediating services and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service within 30 days of notifying the other party.
When an impasse is reached during collective bargaining, it is sometimes helpful to request the assistance of a neutral third party. Mediation or conciliation, usually consists of having the third party listen to both sides, evaluate the conflicting issues, clarify differences, propose new compromises, and identify common grounds for further negotiations. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service must be notified about unresolved disputes at least 30 days before a contract expires. Mediators usually enter a dispute when either the union or management, or both, have requested their assistance. In the airline and rail industries, the National Mediation Board has the authority to enter the dispute without an invitation from either party. Mediation and conciliation are especially prevalent in publicsector bargaining where strikes are prohibited.
Under the Taft-Hartley Act, the president of the United States can apply for an injunction to restrain a strike when the strike imperils the national health and safety. National emergency disputes normally involve critical services or industries such as railroads, oil, steel, coal, and ocean shipping. The President can apply for a court injunction to restrain the strike for 60 days. If no settlement is reached during this time, the injunction can be extended an additional 20 days.
There are three major reasons why people decide not to join a union: Some employees consider themselves professionals and believe they should join a professional association rather than a trade union. An increasing number of people disagree with the goals and activities of labor unions. Some employees identify with management.
Grievance procedures provide a systematic process for hearing and evaluating the complaints of employees and tend to be more highly developed in union companies than in nonunion companies because they are specified in the labor agreement. These procedures protect the rights of employees and eliminate the need for strikes or slowdowns every time a disagreement occurs about the labor contract. Disagreements are almost inevitable regardless of how well the agreement was written. Even well-written labor agreements leave some issues open to interpretation since the negotiators cannot anticipate all future conflicts. Formal grievance procedures increase upward communication in organizations and make top management decisions more sensitive to employee feelings. As grievances are expressed, top management becomes aware of the problems and frustrations of employees. Just knowing that there is a formal grievance system usually makes employees feel better because they know others have listened and have tried to understand.
In the day-to-day activities that occur within a business organization, it should be expected that problems will occasionally arise. In a union organization, disagreements will probably occur because of differing interpretations of the labor agreement. Regardless of how carefully a labor agreement has been prepared, new situations are bound to occur in which management and the union have differing opinions. Rather than having these differences of opinion settled by a strike, a work slowdown, or continual labor unrest, it is better to have a grievance procedure in which the issues can be openly discussed and resolved. Problems are also likely to occur in nonunion companies when employees feel they have been treated unfairly or company policies have been violated. For both union and nonunion organizations, a well-defined grievance procedure provides an avenue for employees to express their complaints and resolve their problems in a peaceful manner. Grievance procedures are designed to protect individuals who feel they have been wronged or mistreated. On the other hand, a discipline procedure is designed to protect the organization. A good discipline procedure gives organizations a way to deal with problem employees. Problem employees who are willing to accept help and improve their performances should receive the proper kinds of encouragement and support. However, a good discipline system also provides a way for the company to terminate problem employees who refuse to be helped and do not respond to the company’s disciplinary actions.
Most labor agreements call for a grievance appeal procedure in which the complaint is first discussed with the supervisor, generally with the aid of a union steward; if possible, the complaint is resolved at this first level. Problems that cannot be resolved at this initial step are referred to a second step, which usually involves a superintendent or operations manager representing the company and the chief plant steward or business agent representing the employee. This step usually exists only in large organizations. The next step generally involves the plant manager or director of industrial relations representing the employer and the plant grievance committee representing the employee. If the problem has still not been resolved, there may be a fourth step in extremely large organizations. This step involves the top corporate officers and members of the national or international union. The final step is binding arbitration by an outside arbitrator. Although a nonunion company could adopt a grievance appeal procedure similar to the ones found in union labor agreements, the use of such a procedure in a nonunion company is quite rare. Although a nonunion company may have a grievance appeal procedure, it is unlikely that an unresolved complaint would be referred to binding arbitration. In most instances, the decisions of the top corporate officers are final. Some alternative grievance procedures used in nonunion companies include a grievance committee, which hears a complaint, investigates the evidence, and makes a recommendation; an ombudsman, which also hears complaints, investigates the problems, and tries to resolve the difficulty; an open-door policy, which allows employees to refer problems directly to upper levels of management; and an investigative officer, which is similar to an ombudsman.
Grievance Procedure: Step 1. The first step in most labor agreements calls for the complaint to be submitted to the supervisor. Some agreements require a complaint to be submitted in writing on a prepared form. Other agreements allow employees to express complaints verbally. Employees usually can request the presence of the union steward to support them. A vast number of workers’ complaints are settled satisfactorily by a simple discussion. Step 2. If an employee is not satisfied with the actions of the supervisor, the grievance can be appealed to step 2. At this point the grievance is almost always written. The employee is represented by the chief plant steward or business agent, and the employer is represented by the superintendent or industrial relations office. Step 3. If the union is not satisfied with the decision of the superintendent or industrial relations office, the grievance can be appealed to step 3. Here, the plant manager or director of industrial relations represents the employer, and the union is represented by the plant grievance committee. Grievances that are not settled at this step may go directly to arbitration. Step 4. Large corporations may have a fourth step in the grievance process where top corporate officers meet with representatives of the international union to resolve unsettled grievances. The number of grievances that reach this level represents a very small percentage of the total. Step 5. The final step in the grievance process is binding arbitration by an outside third party acceptable to both management and the union. Both parties agree beforehand to abide by the arbitrator’s decision.
The grievance procedures outlined in a union labor agreement are generally superior to the grievance procedures found in nonunion companies in the following ways: 1. The grievance procedure is more clearly defined, so that employees know specifically how they will be processed and where to go for help in completing the forms and processing their complaints. 2. Union employees feel greater protection against reprisals from the organization, knowing that a formal complaint system has been developed and that they will not be terminated for expressing their complaints. 3. Union members know that even if management does not agree with them as their complaints are processed through the grievance appeal procedures, a neutral outside party will eventually review the issues and render an unbiased judgment. The disadvantage of a union grievance procedure is that it is typically very expensive and involves a considerable amount of time to process.
Effective Grievance Procedures Protection Against Retaliation: To have an effective grievance procedure employees must believe: 1. Their complaints can be presented without a lot of hassle, embarrassment, or paperwork. 2. Their complaints will be evaluated by a fair and impartial third party. 3. They will not be fired or mistreated for submitting their complaints and pressing them to a resolution. This protection against being fired or mistreated is necessary for the success of both union and nonunion grievance procedures. Timely Responses: Most grievance procedures specify time limits for each stage of grievance processing. An agreement may stipulate, for example, that a grievance must be filed within a certain number of days after an alleged violation takes place. The organization is required to respond within a certain number of days at each stage of the procedure. The purpose of such time limits is to force both the company and the union to address grievances immediately. If grievances are resolved promptly, friction and discontent are reduced. Fair consideration: To resolve a grievance, both management and union representatives must be willing to discuss the issue rationally and objectively. Both sides must desire to resolve the dispute and to seek a satisfactory solution. To reduce the number of grievances that are appealed, supervisors are encouraged to: • Treat all complaints seriously. • Investigate and handle each case as though it may eventually result in arbitration. • Talk with an employee as soon as possible about his or her grievance and give the employee a full hearing. • Correct the problem if the company is wrong. • Examine the labor agreement carefully, and obtain clarification from the human resource office if necessary. • Collect evidence and determine if there were any witnesses. • Remain calm. • Carefully examine all the evidence before making a decision. • Avoid lengthy delays. When all the information is in, make a decision and communicate it.
Arbitration is the process of having a labor dispute resolved by an impartial third party who examines information from both sides and renders a judgment. The parties agree beforehand to accept the decision of an impartial judge called an arbitrator. Some of the issues most frequently referred to arbitration include the following: • Discharge and disciplinary actions • Seniority and its application • Leaves of absence • Promotions and transfers • Vacations and vacation pay • Holidays and holiday pay • Health and welfare benefits • Management rights • Union rights • Strikes and lockouts • Union security • Wages and hours
A large part of the growing cost of arbitration is the increased formality of the hearings in adhering to legal procedures. The trend in arbitration is toward using lawyers, having more formal grievance hearings, examining more testimony, and using more technical language in labor agreements. To make arbitration less costly and time consuming, companies could establish a panel of arbitrators from whom an arbitrator may be randomly selected to hear a complaint within ten days of an appeal, similar to the procedure adopted by the steel industry. In that industry, cases are presented by the local plant and union representatives through written transcripts or briefs and an award is made within forty-eight hours of the hearing. These speedier hearings significantly reduce the costs and dramatically decrease the time required to process a complaint.
The enormous time and expense associated with litigation has prompted employers to pursue arbitration and other methods for resolving disagreements. When two parties are unable to peacefully negotiate an acceptable solution, the next step is to ask for the services of a mediator. The mediator examines both sides of the dispute and tries to help both parties understand the other and find an acceptable compromise. If mediation fails, the parties can agree to submit the issue to binding arbitration and promise to live by the arbitrator’s decision. Alternative dispute resolution: negotiation mediation binding arbitration rent-a-judge services
Some of the issues referred to arbitration most frequently include the following: discharge & disciplinary actions seniority & its application leaves of absence promotions & transfers vacations & vacation pay holiday & holiday pay health & welfare benefits management rights union rights strikes & lockouts union security wages & hours
The negative approach to discipline focuses on punishing employees for past mistakes and is based on fear and threats. Punishment is usually severe and serves as a deterrent to the wrongdoing of others. The punishment is usually administered publicly, along with a display of emotion and anger, and is administered immediately and often capriciously. The positive approach to discipline focuses on eliminating future problems and creating effective employees. Past mistakes are used as feedback to help employees know how to change. Disciplinary meetings are typically held in private in a calm and rational problem-solving atmosphere, rather than in an emotional, anger-filled scene before other employees.
A progressive discipline procedure consists of a series of disciplinary steps that increase in severity from a verbal warning to a verbal reprimand to a written reprimand to suspension to discharge. Such a system is called progressive because each successive step is progressively severe. The most severe punishment is termination or discharge; however, employees are not terminated unless they fail to respond to earlier disciplinary actions that have attempted to correct the problem.
A system of administrative justice has evolved over time that is generally accepted in most organizations and formally adopted by collective agreement in many union contracts. The two basic concepts supporting administrative justice are due process and just cause. Due Process: disciplinary actions must follow an accepted procedure that protects an employee from arbitrary, capricious, and unfair treatment. Just Cause: disciplinary action should only be taken for good and sufficient reason.
The following principles describe some of the most important elements of an effective disciplinary system: Definite policy and procedure Supervisory responsibility Communication of rules Burden of proof Consistent treatment Consideration of the circumstances Reasonable rules and penalties Statute of limitations
Employees have Weingarten rights only during investigatory interviews when a supervisor questions an employee to obtain information that could be used as a basis for discipline or asks an employee to defend his or her conduct. Management is not required to inform the employee of his or her Weingarten rights; it is the employee’s responsibility to know and request.
Employee handbooks describe the important aspects of the employment relationship that employees need to know. Most handbooks describe the following topics: Welcome to the company Employee expectations Complaint procedures Compensation and benefits Special responsibilities
Employment-at-will allows both the employer and the employee the mutual right to terminate the employment relationship at any time for any reason and with or without advance notice to the other.
An implied contract consists of an oral or written promise by an employer to continue the employment relationship either indefinitely or for a designated time. An example of an implied contract is a statement in an employee handbook that the policy of the company is that non-probationary employees will not be released except for just cause. Employee handbooks can also create an implied agreement by referring to employees as “permanent” employees or to jobs as “steady jobs.”
Courts have ruled that employers were guilty of terminating employees in retaliation for actions that were legal, but contrary to the interests of the employer, such as filing a workers’ compensation claim. Employers have been sued by employees and subjected to tort liability because they dismissed employees for reasons that violated public policy. These improper dismissals have been labeled “wrongful discharges,” “abusive discharges,” or “retaliatory discharges.”
Causing an employee to quit by creating unpleasant working conditions violates the law when it is used to discriminate on the basis of disability, age, race, religion, sex, and other protected classifications. When working conditions become so unpleasant that a reasonable person would find them intolerable, the courts have “constructed” from the facts of the case that the person was actually terminated.
A tort refers to a wrongful act or injury done willfully, negligently, or in circumstances in which people, their property, or their reputations are harmed.
Defamation refers to making slanderous or libelous statements about a person that harm the person’s reputation or professional credibility. To prove a case of defamation, a person must show evidence that: A false or malicious statement was made to another person either verbally or in writing. The person was harmed by the statement. There was no legitimate business reason for the statement to be made.
Employers who are concerned about employees using company resources or information to compete against them will require employees to sign a restrictive covenant, called a non-compete agreement, to protect their business interests. For information to qualify as a trade secret and be protected by the courts, it must generally satisfy the following criteria: It must be neither generally known in the trade nor readily ascertainable. It must have been developed at the employer’s expense. It must provide the employer with a competitive advantage. The employer must generally strive to keep it confidential. If the information satisfies these criteria, it will generally be protected by the courts even in the absence of a formal agreement.
Disciplinary problems can be caused by a number of reasons that are not equally serious. Understanding the causes of problems is essential because the causes suggest significantly different implications for managerial action. A careful diagnosis of the nature and cause of each wrongdoing should precede any disciplinary action.
The advantage of having a highly detailed list of rules is that it eliminates uncertainty about whether specific behaviors are right or wrong. If employees are expected to behave in specific ways, then a specific list of rules that clearly describes what is expected of them will be useful. The disadvantage of a detailed list of rules is that it is impossible to identify all possible incorrect behaviors. Furthermore, as the list becomes more detailed, the difficulty of interpretation becomes greater, and individuals will be more likely to disregard the entire list. Consequently, a simple statement of general principles is often superior to a detailed listing of rules. If employees understand the general principles that should guide their behavior, they can apply these principles to specific situations using their own judgment, rather than referring to an extensive list of prescribed behaviors that they probably do not understand or remember.
Voluntary absenteeism and turnover occur when employees have a choice of working or not working and they intentionally decide to miss work or quit. Involuntary absenteeism and turnover occur when employees miss work or are terminated for reasons beyond their control.
When employees are absent, they are absent. Regardless of whether it is a voluntary or involuntary, and regardless of whether they have a good excuse or not, they are still not there and the work does not get done. Therefore, in one sense, whether it is voluntary or involuntary makes little difference. In terms of diagnosing problems and proposing solutions, however, the distinction between voluntary and involuntary absenteeism and turnover is quite useful. For example, if the reason for being absent is because a serious snowstorm has closed all of the roads, there is not much a company can do about such a problem. Managers should try to solve absenteeism and turnover problems that are caused by voluntary reasons. It should be noted, however, that it is often difficult to distinguish between a voluntary and involuntary absence. Serious health problems are considered involuntary reasons for being absent; however, minor health problems should be considered voluntary absenteeism since many employees could use an aspirin or a band-aid and return to work.
Unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when: Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. Court Cases: Meritor Savings Bank, FSB, v. Vinson Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc. Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth Faragher v. City of Boca Raton
Involuntary terminations typically occur as a result of employment problems—such as poor performance, excessive absenteeism, insubordination, or theft. Employers must ensure that all involuntary terminations occur for job-related reasons and that termination decisions do not violate any contractual commitments with employees. Before an employee is terminated, employers should have an established procedure whereby a designated person reviews the proposed termination to ensure that all issues have been considered. This review should include the following steps: Determine whether there are valid, job-related reasons for terminating the employee. If the termination is due to a specific incident, determine whether it has been properly investigated and documented. Determine whether the employee was aware that his or her performance was unacceptable. Determine whether the termination action is consistent with prior treatment of other employees. Review the employee’s overall work record and ensure that the employee has received all rights to which he or she is entitled under the company’s policies. Ensure that the employee is not the victim of retaliation for exercising his or her civil rights, such as making a claim of sexual harassment.
Guidelines for terminations: Plan the termination interview carefully and be prepared for it. Be direct and avoid talking about trivial matters. Describe the decision and the situation leading to it. Answer the employee’s questions and help the person understand the reasons for termination. Explain the severance package Have the person sign any necessary releases and explain what to do next.
The primary responsibilities of HR during layoffs include the following: Prepare instructions for managers Prepare individual separation letters Prepare written questions and answers Prepare contact lists and phone numbers Prepare an exit checklist
The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) requires companies with 100 or more full-time employees to give 60-day advance notice of plant closings or layoffs that affect large numbers of workers. For plant closings, notice is required when 50 or more employees at one site are to lose their jobs. For layoffs that are scheduled to last more than six months, notice is required if it affects 50 or more workers who comprise at least 33 percent of a workforce at one site. Notice also is required if a six-month layoff will put 500 or more employees out of work, regardless of whether they comprise 33 percent of the workforce.
In 1978, Congress passed the Civil Service Reform Act to provide federal employees with many of the same collective bargaining protections as the national Labor Relations Act. The basic intent of labor regulations in the public sector is the same as in the private sector: employees should have the rights to organize, free of restraint and coercion, and to negotiate a labor agreement through peaceful collective bargaining.
For federal employees, the Federal Labor Relations Council performs some of the same functions as the NLRB does for private employees. The council determines the composition of bargaining units, orders and supervises elections, disqualifies elections for corrupt or undemocratic actions, and decides unfair labor practice charges. Experience shows that the council has adopted many of the NLRB guidelines.
In some states, public employees are allowed to strike, and some strikes have extended for considerable periods of time. For example, in some school districts, teachers have been on strike for as long as half of the school year. The general thinking, however, is that public employees should not be allowed to strike because the services they provide are essential to the public. For example, garbage collectors cannot go on strike for more than two or three weeks before serious health hazards are created by accumulating garbage in the streets. Police department strikes typically do not last long because of the concern for public safety. When the air traffic controllers went on strike in 1981, they were immediately fired and replaced. One of the major problems with labor unions in the public sector is created by the temporary nature of management representatives. In the public sector, the management team consists of public officials who are elected to represent private citizens. Because public officials have a limited term of office and they dislike adverse publicity or interrupted services, they are often willing to make wage concessions to the union. This inequality typically results in higher than normal wages for public employees. After the public employees’ salaries have gotten too far out of line, there is usually a political candidate who runs on a platform of reducing the employees’ wages, and, at that point, the wages become a political issue. Perhaps the best way to handle labor relations in the public sector is to replace the labor union with an arbitration board that resolves all grievances and disciplinary cases and to have all wage and salary decisions made by a compensation committee using a wage survey and job evaluation method.
Employee involvement programs, also called quality of worklife programs (QWL), provide greater opportunities for employees to participate in the organization as managers or owners. These programs contribute importantly to the quality of life at work. The major component that all employee involvement programs have in common is that they seek to improve the quality of life by creating better jobs. Almost all employee involvement programs share four common goals: They attempt to create a democratic organization where everyone has a voice in deciding issues that influence their lives. They try to share the financial rewards of the organization so that everyone benefits from greater cooperation, higher productivity, and increased profitability. They seek to create greater job security by increasing organizational vitality and furthering employee rights. They try to enhance individual development by establishing conditions that contribute to personal growth and adjustment.
Self-directed work teams consist of small groups of workers, usually fewer than 15 or 20 in number, who are responsible for performing a series of jobs. Each group is directed by its own informal leadership rather than through a layer of supervisors. The strategic advantage of self-directed work teams is that they are more responsive to change.
A quality circle consists of a group of workers who meet periodically to discuss methods of increasing productivity. Participation in the group discussion is voluntary, and most employees choose to be involved. The group meets regularly, typically one hour each week, usually on company time. The discussions are led by a supervisor or a group facilitator. The meeting is designed to identify and diagnose problems, to explore alternative solutions, and to recommend the best solution. The members of the group are encouraged to discuss only the problems about which they can do something. Problems that are out of their control are referred elsewhere. Reports on quality circles show three major benefits. The creative suggestions by employees usually produce greater productivity in terms of both quantity and quality. Quality circles improve communication within the group, between groups, and with upper levels of management. Quality circles enhance the level of morale and increase employees’ commitment to their work and their satisfaction with the company.
The leading theory for examining jobs and deciding how to make them more enriched is called the job characteristics model. This model explains how job redesign programs change the nature of a job and the psychological reactions of the worker to produce better work outcomes. Job enrichment consists of modifying the job to increase any of the following variables: Skill variety: The degree to which a job allows workers to develop and use their skills and to avoid the monotony of performing the same task repeatedly. Task identity: The degree to which a task consists of a whole or complete unit of work as opposed to a small, specialized, repetitive act. Task significance: The degree to which a task has a significant impact on the organization, the community, or the lives of other people. Autonomy: The degree to which workers are free of the direct influence of a supervisor and can exercise discretion in scheduling their work and deciding how it will be done. Feedback: The degree to which workers obtain evaluative information about their performance in the normal course of doing their jobs.
A method for creating greater involvement and participation is for the employees to buy the company and operate it themselves. This form of peaceful takeover by employees has occasionally been attempted in recent years to avoid plant closings or to prevent a leveraged buyout.
Participative management-employee involvement and participative decision making (PDM)-allows employees to be more involved in managing the organization. Subordinates are allowed to share in making managerial decisions, by keeping subordinates informed about the economic condition of the organization inviting employees to recommend innovative ideas and suggestions treating subordinates with consideration and respect supporting employees even when they make mistakes providing training and development opportunities to help employees advance
Flextime is well suited for any job in which workers work independently, or with little or no required interaction with other employees. An accountant who can post records at any time during the day, a janitor who can clean the offices any time they are vacant, or an advertising designer who develops ads independently are good candidates for flextime. Permanent parttime work is well suited for jobs at which employees need not be present for a full shift. Any job that can be reduced in hours by creating more jobs and hired more workers is well suited for permanent part-time arrangements. Job sharing is applicable to almost any job since virtually any job can be shared by two individuals. The only exceptions are probably jobs that require one employee to have knowledge and information others need. Top-level executive jobs, for example, are probably not suited for job sharing since a top level executive generally must maintain a consistent policy direction in leading an organization. A compressed workweek is well suited for jobs that must be staffed around the clock and that do not required extended physical exertion. for example, compressed workweeks have been used effectively in hospitals with nurses and medical technicians, in manufacturing companies with security guards, and in oil refineries with individuals who are required to monitor gauges. Telecommuting is well suited for jobs where the individuals are not required to interact personally with others. If work is generally done independently and communication is typically done by telephone, computer, fax machine, e-mail, or voice mail, the job may be well suited for telecommuting.
Studies of job satisfaction have determined that job attitudes are influenced most by the qualitative aspects of the job.
There is no necessary relationship between job satisfaction and productivity. Both satisfaction and productivity are influenced by the kinds of reinforcement contingencies and reward schedules and reward expectations of employees. Since performance is determined by the relationship between pay and performance, one would expect to find a positive relationship when performance is used to determine levels of reward. On the other hand, a negative relationship between satisfaction and productivity would be expected when pay is administered randomly or when low performers receive more rewards than high performers.
Feedback to management: The results of an attitude survey may provide management with a general understanding of the feelings of employees, as well as specific suggestions for improvement. Feedback to employees: Survey feedback interventions in organizations involve sharing the results of attitude surveys with employees.
The success of a survey feedback intervention depends primarily on three factors. Employees must have a commitment to each other and to the success of the company. They must be willing to share their feelings and to participate openly in the feedback and problem-solving sessions. Second, top management must support the intervention and create an environment that is sufficiently open and amenable to change so employees feel their efforts are worthwhile. Finally, the questionnaire must be carefully designed to address the major issues and accurately assess employee feelings.
Engagement refers to the degree to which employees are committed to their jobs and the organization, their willingness to remain with the organization and work hard to make it succeed, and their enthusiasm in completing their own work and helping their co-workers. Managers talk about three levels of employee engagement: Engaged employees are those who work with vigor, dedication, and absorption. Not engaged employees are those who are putting in their time and going about their work with little energy or passion, but not interfering with others. Actively disengaged employees are those who are unhappy about their work, who actively murmur and complain about their job and the company, and who undermine what their engaged colleagues are trying to achieve.
The side agreement on labor associated with NAFTA is not very well known and it has almost never been used to protect the rights of workers in the United States. However, it has the potential for being a very powerful weapon in the hands of workers who believe their rights are being violated. NAFTA is a treaty and international treaties take precedence over national laws when issues regarding them are being resolved in the courts. For now, it does not appear that the NAFTA side agreement provides any additional protections than those already provided by federal legislation. However, one can imagine a scenario where the interpretations of these rights in an international setting might extend beyond their legal interpretations in the United States. For example, if NAFTA’s side agreement prohibiting employment discrimination were interpreted to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, or prior criminal conviction, etc., this side agreement could have a great impact. U.S. law does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation even though many state laws and city ordinances do. And, ex-convicts are not totally exonerated and excused of their past mistakes. NAFTA’s side agreement theoretically would take precedence over U.S. law in these instances.