Undergraduate Article

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Written Assignment 1
(25 points) 3-4 pages, not including cover or References pages

Locate an article describing a collective bargaining situation that has arisen within the past two years. This article should be from a newspaper, an academic journal, or a credible ONLINE news source. Use a minimum of two additional references to support your discussion and to respond to the questions in the assignment.

a. Using APA guidelines, state the proper citation for the article.

b. State the nature of the collective bargaining dispute.

c. What are the underlying causes of the dispute?

d. What economic or ethical pressures has each side attempted to use to prevail in the dispute?

e. If there is any evidence of any illegal or unethical conduct on either side, describe it in detail.

f. Was the dispute resolved? If so, how?

g. What, if any, role was played by third parties in resolving this bargaining dispute? What was the identity of the third party?

h. In retrospect, could this dispute have been resolved in a more constructive fashion? If so, how?

Answer

Title: Collective Bargaining

 

Contents

The Nature of the Collective Bargaining Dispute. 2

The Underlying Causes of the Dispute. 2

Economic and Ethical Pressures Each Side Attempted to Use to Prevail in the Dispute. 3

Evidence of Illegal or Unethical Conduct on Either Side. 3

How the Dispute was Resolved. 4

The Role Played the Third Party in Resolving the Bargaining Dispute. 4

Could This Dispute Have Been Resolved in a More Constructive Fashion?. 4

References. 6

 

The Nature of the Collective Bargaining Dispute

This paper looks at a collective bargaining dispute in which Wisconsin public workers went to the Wisconsin Supreme Court to protest the enactment of Act 10, a new that would significantly curtail their collective bargaining rights. When the Act was signed into law by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, it triggered a protest by thousands of supporters of labor unions, who marched to the State Capitol. In this dispute, public workers argued that the imposition of restrictions on their collective bargaining rights amounted to a violation of their equal protection rights as well as freedom of association (The New York Times, July 31, 2014). The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected this argument. Governor Walker argued that he supported the new law because it would save taxpayers about $3 billion (The New York Times, July 31, 2014). In opposing the law, public workers argued that it would diminish unions’ powers, thereby limiting their bargaining rights to salary increases based on inflation rate.

The Underlying Causes of the Dispute

This dispute was the culmination of a long struggle by unions to assert their power in safeguarding public workers’ rights in a dynamic labor environment on the one hand and adamancy by the state government regarding the measures aimed at protecting taxpayers from the undesirable effects of a looming budget deficit. Union leaders view this argument by the state government as an excuse for curtailing unions’ power. Under Act 10, it is impossible for bargaining rights to bring about pay rises that surpass the prevailing inflation rate in Wisconsin. However, the amount of contributions for pensions and healthcare under the law in this state has significantly increased. For this reason, many union members have indicated that they can no longer afford those dues.

Economic and Ethical Pressures Each Side Attempted to Use to Prevail in the Dispute
In this dispute, administrators in the state government of Wisconsin were on the one hand confronted with the economic pressure of preventing a looming budget deficit from materializing. On the other hand, they had to deal with the ethical pressure arising from public workers inability to afford paying medical and pension dues under the prevailing pay packages. The article even gives the example of one Wisconsin union, which said that its membership had dropped by 60 percent because of its members’ inability to afford paying their union dues (The New York Times, July 31, 2014). In the face of these pressures, the decision to seek arbitration from the Wisconsin Supreme Court was the right course of action to take. This course of action also enabled the parties to get closure on the important ethical issue of whether the collective bargaining restrictions that were brought about by Act 10 violated the workers equal protection rights and freedom of association.

Evidence of Illegal or Unethical Conduct on Either Side

The state government seems to have acted unethically in failing to put into consideration the needs of public workers. The workers stand to lose their bargaining power considerably if they have reached to the point of even failing to pay their union dues. Their inability to afford paying pension and medical dues puts them in a vulnerable position. It is unethical for the government to subject its workers to a position where their unions are weakened, they are denied the right to enter concessions regarding their medical and pension schemes, and are not given an alternative mechanism of expressing their remuneration-related grievances to their employers (Menkel-Meadow, 2002).

How the Dispute was Resolved

The dispute was resolved through a court process. Wisconsin labor unions had gone to court to challenge the enactment of Act 10, which they felt was in violation of their rights. The court upheld the law and the labor unions accepted this decision honorably even though it did not turn out in their favor. This means that the dispute was resolved. However, labor union leaders have indicated their willingness to continue pursuing changes through the electoral process. This may be viewed as a continuation of the dispute, albeit through a different mechanism. The labor unions’ intentions are clear considering that the looming elections put Governor Walker in a tight race with his Democrat challenger, Mary Burke, as well as the fact that labor unions in Wisconsin tend to support Democratic candidates (The New York Times, July 31, 2014). Meanwhile, the fact that the dispute in its current form was resolved is not in doubt considering that union leaders agreed that the Supreme Court was nominally nonpartisan in its ruling.

The Role Played the Third Party in Resolving the Bargaining Dispute

According to Ross and Conlon (2000), arbitration provides a viable avenue for resolving collective bargaining disputes as long as the arbitrator takes a nonpartisan position. This is precisely what the third party in this dispute, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, did. The court held the view that it was impossible for the First Amendment to be used as a tool for expanding the parameters of benefits whose protection it does not itself provide.

Could This Dispute Have Been Resolved in a More Constructive Fashion?

In retrospect, I feel that this dispute could have been resolved in a more amicable manner. The state government should have engaged unions in negotiations based on a predefined framework in order to identify issues under contention and the best way of resolving them. This alternative dispute resolution mechanism could possibly have yielded a better outcome, whereby public workers would have been given an alternative avenue of engaging in collective bargaining with the state government (Caverley, Cunningham & Mitchell, 2006). By letting the court process to roll on, the government seemed to have in effect owned up to its inability to protect the welfare of its workers.

 

References

Caverley, N., Cunningham, B. & Mitchell, L. (2006). Reflections on public sector‐based integrative collective bargaining: Conditions affecting cooperation within the negotiation process. Employee Relations, 28(1), 62 – 75.

Menkel-Meadow, C. (2002). Ethics Issues in Arbitration and Related Dispute Resolution Processes: What’s Happening and What’s Not. University of Miami Law Review, 56(7) 949-980.

Ross, W. & Conlon, D. (2000). Hybrid Forms of Third-Party Dispute Resolution: Theoretical Implications of Combining Mediation and Arbitration. Academy of Management Review, 25(2), 416-427.

The New York Times. (July 31, 2014). Wisconsin Justices Uphold Union Limits, a Victory for the Governor. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/01/us/wisconsin-union-limits-and-voter-id-law-upheld-by-court.html on 2 February 2015.

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