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Study: Unfair labor practices delay the first union contracts


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Recent organized victories at notable private-sector employers like Amazon, Starbucks and Trader Joe’s suggest that American workers can unionize in industries previously considered unregulated.

Despite the gains, unions often do not reach legally binding collective bargaining agreements with employers that give workers more say in wages, benefits, and protections.

In fact, new ILR research finds that the odds of winning a first contract within 18 months of employees voting to unionize drop by about 71% when an employer obstructs contract negotiations by committing unfair labor practices.

Posted on February 25 in Journal of Industrial RelationsBreaking the Ice: How Union and Employer Tactics Affect First Contract Achievement, co-authored by ILR Ph.D. Students Johnny Callas and Dongwoo Park, and University of Windsor Assistant Professor Rachel Alex.

“A lot of people assume, and rightly so, that if you win an election to a union, you should be able to negotiate a contract. But the truth is, less than half of them have a contract one year after the election,” Klass said. “We don’t have anything in US labor law to compel an employer to come to an agreement on the first contract, which is a problem that a lot of current regulation campaigns face.

“So, just because you win an election doesn’t mean you can make tangible gains in your workplace. You then have to, after you win a grueling election, be able to negotiate your first contract. It’s a distinct process that comes with its own challenges, which we’re trying to show. in our paper.”

Employer opposition has a negative impact on unions getting a first contract, researchers said. Many engage in illegal tactics, called unfair labor practices, such as spreading rumors about job losses and factory closures. They also use legal means, such as captive audience meetings, to delay the process.

In 39% of cases, employers retained the use of an anti-union advisor and engaged in tactics to reduce support for a union even after union adoption. These methods, including making promises, unilaterally changing business terms and conditions, and threatening closure, were used in 38%, 32%, and 25% of cases, respectively.

On the other hand, researchers have found that engaging with the public, similar to the effort required to gain workers’ approval to form a union, improves the chances of closing an agreement.

Researchers argue that for unions to achieve the first decade, workers must build external leverage by mobilizing community leaders and workers in other union positions. Examples of this strategy yielding positive results include the Maine Nurses Association, which ratified its first contract in September 2022 after holding a series of public gatherings, and the first contract achieved by graduate students at Clark University in October 2022.

Park said, “The unions need to get the contract first, so you may want to call a strike or talk to the employers privately. But what we found is that more important than those kinds of insider tactics is the need to get the community groups involved, or other groups outside.” union, to build solidarity, to make their cause more visible and to show employers shame.”

more information:
John Callas et al., Breaking the Ice: How Union and Employer Tactics Affect First Contract Fulfillment, Journal of Industrial Relations (2023). DOI: 10.1111/irj.12399

Provided by Cornell University

the quote: Study: Unfair Labor Practices Delay First Labor Delay Union (2023, April 12) Retrieved April 12, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-unfair-labor-delay-union.html

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