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The management literature frequently highlights unions as one of the most significant restrictions on organizational management. Others claim that forming a union within an organization inhibits the organization's management in terms of workforce policies. Furthermore, the presence of a union in the workplace generates an alternative order in management-employee interactions, where previously extensive rights enjoyed by management in connection to its employees are now limited and susceptible to argument.
Some management people argue that "management gets the union it deserves," with the rationale being that businesses with terrible employee practices may receive a unit that is antagonistic and disobedient in managing dealings. Militarized unions are often considered the natural by-products of autocratic managerial regimes (Visser, 2013). Therefore, a company that has a dictatorial approach to employee management is at higher risk of becoming the target of a union drive. Additionally, once unionized the company employees and managers are likely to create a hostile bargaining front in the organization. With these justifications, it becomes important for employers to maintain union-free workforce thus allowing them to maintain their managerial rights and remain free of the restrictions created by a collective arrangement between employees.
In most instances, the organization is sensitive to employee needs and can manage to discourage efforts any union attempts at their workplaces. Besides, employees who have high engagement and satisfaction in a particular organization are unlikely to seek collective agreements as they are treated better. Additionally, an organization that takes care of its employees cannot draw attention from external unions. Some organizations conduct regular employee audits and surveys to assess the state of their management-employee relations (Marchington et al., 2016). The audits also help attentive employers to handle them before they become major hindrances. In addition to these workplace and employee audits, the employers also evaluate their employment conditions closely periodically. Some undertake performance appraisal and compensation surveys within their industries to assess their competition packages against those of competitors. The main aim of these initiatives is to develop an environment that minimizes the incentives for the creation of unions (Chalwood & Pollert, 2014). The employees would be hesitant to seek a union and pay membership fees for minimal or no improvements in their situation.
Another important strategy to avoid unions in the workplace is bi-directional communication with the employees. The rationale is that employees who communicate with their employers are more likely to feel appreciated and important to the organization. Therefore, the management must establish and maintain open and clear lines of communication between them and their employees (Marchington et al., 2016). They should recognize that when they have a broken communication pipeline, then employees fill the gap with rumors and speculations creating distrust in the organization as employees perceive the management to be trying to withhold information. An employee concerned about the lack of communication may seek a third party to intercede with a union being the first choice.
The company should also maintain a consistent application of their human resource management policies and processes. Discrimination and favoritism create tensions and risk unionization. Employees disgruntled by unequal employment from their superiors will likely search out a union that works to make the employer more equitable through changing workplace practices. Therefore, consistent and unbiased application of organizational policies and procedures is key to preventing discrimination and favoritism thereby reducing the need for a union.
Dispute Resolution Techniques
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution technique where an independent and trained third party joins to engage with the conflicting parties and initiates a dialog to help them find amicable solutions to their problems. However, the process does not necessarily need to create actionable solutions but rather aims to initiate cordial dialogue between the parties. The lack of definitive solutions forms one of its major weaknesses as well as an advantage in that the parties do not make binding decisions. While it may seem ambiguous, it may give some parties confidence that they do not have to accept unfavorable term (Goldberg et al., 2014). Therefore, the overall aim of the mediation process is to repair and maintain the positive workplace relationships wherever possible making it future-oriented rather than seeking to place blame. Leaders who adopt a mediator role use communication, fact-finding, and creativity to help the disputing parties to decide on their own. However, the leader has to accept the mediation’s outcome even they may have personal preferences regarding the best decision.
Pros of Mediation
Mediation has certain benefits that explain its popularity as a dispute resolution mechanism.
Mediation is inherently cheaper than litigation as it does not involve a complicated and prolonged process
The mediation process is faster than litigation as many public courts have a backlog of cases while parties can arrange mediation on short notice
The process offers additional control to the disputing parties as they have to agree on an enforceable agreement for the process to be considered successful. In contrast, the parties have to respect the court’s or arbitrator’s decision when seeking other resolution avenues.
If a decision cannot be reached, the aggrieved party can litigate in courtroom
Cons of Mediation
While most people perceive mediation as time and cost effective, they assume that the mediating parties are willing to agree on mutually beneficial conditions (Ballard & Easteal, 2016). However, if one party enters mediation with no intention to compromise, then the process is doomed to fail.
The mediator chosen has a significant impact on the outcome. In most cases, the mediators are trained professionals although the disputing parties may end up with an inexperienced mediator who does not consider all the facets of a dispute. Additionally, the mediator may have experience in similar disputes and have a bias towards one party.
Although privacy is beneficial in most cases, the information from mediation remains private even when it has potential repercussions for a larger population.
Arbitration forms another extra-judicial conflict resolution mechanism. It involves the disputing parties agreeing on an impartial third party to arbitrate on the case and give a decision (Rahman, 2014). The arbitrator works similarly to a judge by considering the relevant factors and then making a decision to which both parties have to abide. In some complex cases, the administrator presides over a hearing where the parties present exhibits and testimony regarding their case. The concerned parties may develop the procedures or contract the duty to an administrative organization.
The process is usually effective if both parties agree to respect the arbitrator’s decision. However, the avenues for appealing a decision are limited. However, in some cases, a court may support an arbitrator’s judgment thus making it enforceable. Where parties do not agree to abide by the arbitrator’s decision, arbitration can serve as a starting point to establish settlement talks. Arbitration had multiple advantages such as voluntary participation, private and kept within the parties, less formal thus reduced expenses, and quicker resolution of disputes (Rahman, 2014). It also encourages objectivity as each party can present evidence in support of their case. In most cases, the arbitrators have experience in a particular industry and whose decisions are likely to hold up in court making them enforceable. However, it may also be unenforceable when the parties cannot agree on a suitable arbitrator for their case. Furthermore, the appeal avenues making the decisions final.
Pros of Arbitration
The process avoids outright hostilities between the parties as they are encouraged to participate and even contribute to structuring a resolution (Colvin & Gough, 2015)
Cost-effective compared to legislation as it rarely requires legal counsel
Faster resolution of disputes as shown by data from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services which estimated the average resolution time at 475 days as compared to the minimum 18 months required for a successful resolution through the courts (Colvin & Gought, 2015)
The arbitration attendance requirements are flexible as they can be scheduled around the needs of the disputing parties
The bureaucracy associated with litigation is absent in arbitration creating simplified rules of evidence.
Cons of Arbitration
Limited appeal avenues are making the final decision hard to avoid. If the arbitrator gives an illogical or unfair judgment, then the aggrieved party may have to agree with it (McManus, 2017).
Arbitrators are also likely to rule in favor of large employers or manufacture when disputing against a single employee with minimal funds or power
Most retailers often neglect to mention the arbitration clauses on their contracts which often catch consumers by surprise when they attempt to file lawsuits (McManus, 2017)
The process of selecting an arbitrator may introduce some bias in the process as they are often picked from a pool with some favorite arbitrators getting more cases than others
In most cases, the arbitration groups market their services and offerings to credit card issuers and large retailers raising questions about their objectivity.
The requirements for privacy also introduce a lack of transparency which may complicate repeal cases.
Reducing Unions in the Private Sector
The number of private sector unions has declined sharply from more than 30% in the mid 20th century to the current 7 percent. While most people attribute the decline to a reduction in the country’s manufacturing operations, the decline is evident in most private industries with most workers having an apathy towards unionization. Some have attributed the decline to the rigidness of unions regarding working conditions and employer-employee relations which often means increased costs to employers and reduced employment opportunities. Unions after WWII helped in raising wages and improving working conditions which had the unintended impact of reducing competition in the labor markets within American industries (Clougharty et al., 2014). As a result, employers prefer non-unionized workers who are less likely to challenge organizational directives. Moreover, most workers today are aware of their basic employee rights and enjoy the flexibility of negotiating wages and working conditions. Moreover, globalization also introduced the threat of outsourcing thus reducing the incentives to create unions or challenge low wages.
The declines in unions are associated with reduced labor tenure, low wages, and increased turnover. In some cases, workers benefit as they can find additional opportunities to change jobs but long-term employees have reduced opportunities for career development (Gittleman & Kleiner, 2016). Moreover, the current minimum wage laws cannot keep up with inflation thus increasing the income inequality gap. Unions also influenced the working conditions of non-unionized workers as employers worried about a unionization drive would improve their terms to match those of prominent unions. On the macro scale, reduced unionization of the private sector has affected voting patterns as unionized members are more likely to believe in the power of democracy and the masses in fomenting change (Hogler, Hunt, & Weiler, 2015). In this context, most of the labor laws in the constitution were passed with the support of labor unions whose participation has reduced in that regard thereby affecting current initiatives to improve worker conditions.
How the Government Participates in the Labor Market
The government plays an important role in managing labor relations as they are the main participants in establishing regulation in the economy. In this context, the government plays multiple roles in the labor market through influencing labor relations, implementing compensation regulation such as minimum wage, the workplace health and safety regulations, and government regulations facilitating economic rent.
Government have had a prominent role in shaping the history of labor in all countries. In most cases, the labor laws in a particular economy favor the large establishments unions. Implemented in 1935, the Wagner Act facilitated the development of unions while the subsequent Taft-Hartley Act enacted in 1947 halted the growth of unions (Ehrenberg & Smith, 2016). In contemporary times, some labor unions have begun pushing for card-check voting which would facilitate their comeback.
Where performance remuneration disputes emerge, the government often responds to manage industry-wide labor activities. Unregulated competition between laborers may lead to wage cuts that would lead to negative outcomes for all employees in the industry. With the increased immigration, low-wages are a major concern as domestic workers may forego employment opportunities that immigrant workers accept at a reduced cost to the employer. Therefore, the government has enacted minimum wage laws that help in keeping the wage floor from dropping too much. Currently, the federal minimum wage has stagnated at approximately $7 - $10 per hour although some states and cities have raised it to $15 thus improving the workers’ welfare (David, Manning & Smith, 2016). However, such legislation also affects the workers’ opportunities for jobs as they increase the business operational costs.
Moreover, in a bid to cut costs, some manufacturers may facilitate the development of hazardous working and boarding conditions. However, government regulations regarding workplace occupation and health processes attempt to curb such practices. The Organization Safety and Health Act tries to maintain safe and healthy working conditions for all employees through providing resources on their constitutionally mandated rights and liabilities. Additional legislation such as the provisions of ACA Act provides mandated minimum benefits such as health insurance to permanent employees thus providing a safety net in case of emergencies (Almeida et al., 2017). Moreover, such legislation provides provisions for employees to challenge their employer’s practices if they increase the hazards associated with that particular employer. Therefore, the government, in this case, helps in creating safe working conditions.
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