A union is a group of workers or employees that aims to communicate with the employers on even grounds and negotiate the terms of employment with them, instead of each worker approaching their bosses individually. Taking this objective into account, collective bargaining is the procedure in which workers assemble and make a deal or bargain with the company management on the policies and the essential terms and conditions of employment, which include working conditions, work hours, work holidays, base pay, workplace rules, vacation time, sick leave, and health care as well as retirement benefits, and many more.
How Does Collective Bargaining Take Place in the United States?
As far as the scenario in the United States is concerned, collective bargaining happens between the company management and the labor union leaders. The union is a common representative of all the workers employed with the company. The outcome of collective bargaining is what you know as a collective bargaining agreement. This agreement generally deals with a new set of rules that are established for a fixed period of time.
The members of the union pay for the union dues, i.e. an amount that suffices the cost of their representation. If the results are not favorable and the two parties sitting in discussion fail to reach a conclusion, the procedure of collective bargaining might involve employee lockouts, factory lockouts, or even labor strikes, which eventually is not beneficial for the company if long term consequences are considered.
The Statistics Of Collective Bargaining
In America, the presence of unions can be witnessed in both the public and private sectors. The BLS or the Bureau of Labor Statistics has presented a report in the year 2017 where 10.7% of the workers used to be a part of the labor unions. While 6.5% of workers in the private sectors are unionized, a significant 34.4% of them working in the public sector are members of the labor unions.
Categories of unionized employees comprise airline employees, auto workers, teachers, athletes, actors, postal workers, grocery store employees, steelworkers, farmworkers, and others. If the median weekly wages are taken into account, the workers belonging to the unions rake in around $1041 in comparison to $829 that non-unionized workers receive. The reports of 2017 also reveal that almost 23.8% of the employees in New York City were part of these unions. That’s in stark contrast to that of 2.6% of unionized workers in South Carolina. That’s a massive gap.
Collective Bargaining Agreement – What Does the Law State?
The legal issues as far as the unions are concerned, are known to be covered by the NLRA or National Labor Relations Act, a federal law. The NLRB or the National Labor Relations Board happens to be the federal agency that carries out the responsibility of dealing with any kind of labor disputes when they get transformed into legal battles. The board is also responsible for taking enforcement action as and when there is a violation.
Under the National Labor Relations Act, workers have all the right to become a part of the unions and get involved in collective bargaining. However, there are a few types of industries and employers that don’t fall under the Act. Agricultural laborers, independent contractors, and government workers are included in this category. For those on which the Act is applied, they are prohibited from stopping the workers from getting engaged or organizing activities that are directly connected with forming a union.
The Controversies Surrounding Collective Bargaining
Collective bargaining has been sort of mired in controversies throughout the 21st century, especially when you talk of public sector workers. Since employees in the public sector receive their wages from tax revenues, the opponents of collective bargaining have been alleging that the procedure is resulting in excessive pay, which in turn, is a burden on those who pay taxes. Those, who are in favor of collective bargaining in the public sector, have their arguments ready. They inform that the public sector workers earn a meager 5% more than their peers who don’t belong to a union.
Labor relations are a bit complicated and you need to give it some time if want to get into the depth of affairs. You can consult an employment lawyer regarding what rights you have under the employment laws of the state and collective bargaining.