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Unions in the Modern Society: Role and Operations

Summary of Labor Relations Principles

Workers’ unions refer to groups of employees who are united by a common purpose of negotiating for better working conditions with employers. Unions emerged in the 1800s, with the primary objective of fighting oppression in the workplace (Compa, 2014). In the recent past, such unions have gained much ground to the extent that they are present in almost every country around the globe. This paper explores the role and operations of unions in modern society. The paper also examines the history of the unions, including the evolution of their roles over the past 100 years.

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The Role of Management and Unions in Society Today? How it has changed in the Last 100 Years

The managers of employer companies must support employees to be members of the relevant unions. Every employer is barred by the law from discriminating against an employee on the grounds of being a member of a legal union of workers. Additionally, the managers of the employer companies must play in facilitating the process of solving workplace disputes. On the other hand, unions have a duty of ensuring that none of the member employees faces oppression or any kind of discrimination in the workplace.

Additionally, unions have the responsibility of bringing together employees to engage the employer collectively in solving workplace disputes (Compa, 2014). Such disputes are often solved by signing collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) between employees and their employers. The employer has the responsibility of implementing the CBA to guarantee employees of their welfare. Therefore, the managers of the client firm have the responsibility of facilitating dispute resolution between employees and employers. On the other hand, unions have the responsibility of facilitating collective bargaining for the betterment of employees’ welfare.

The role of employee unions has rapidly changed over the past 10 decades. In their early years, the unions’ roles mainly centered on liberating workers from harsh working conditions that they were subjected to. For example, the employer in the early days would pay a small amount of money to employees as compensation for heavy work (Kieler, 2014). The scope or nature of oppression of workers at the time was high compared to today. Employers would lay off workers who attempted to complain about such oppressions.

Therefore, unions that existed 100 years ago focused heavily on preventing the wrongful dismissal of employees and ending workplace oppression. They lobbied the legislature to enact laws barring employers from firing employees. Today, laws that govern employer-employee relationships are well outlined in the constitution of almost every country. Consequently, the scope of the unions’ work has been limited to that of negotiating for better salaries and improved working conditions for employees.

How the History of Unions and the Collective Bargaining Process Impact Negotiations Today: Current Trends or Problems in Labor Relation Practices

Early unions faced great hostility from employers who deeply opposed their existence for the fear of salary and wage increments. Employees who attempted to join unions would either be fired or subjected to harsh penalties. This situation discouraged employees from forming unions, which allowed oppressions to continue. In some cases, workers’ unions were compelled to approach the courts to seek a relevant interpretation of the law concerning their right to form unions. The result was that the courts gave several verdicts in favor of unions.

For example, in Commonwealth v. Pullis, the Philadelphia Mayor’s Court of 1806 determined that unions were justified to use unnatural means to cause employers to increase their salaries (Kieler, 2014). The verdict was a great boost to the unions since it somehow legalized their formation. Such unions received yet another boost when the Massachusetts highest legal chamber supported the bodies in the infamous Commonwealth v. Hunt case (Kieler, 2014). Thereafter, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of the mid-1930s was enacted outlining the procedures to be followed to create a union (Kieler, 2014). The guidelines contained in the Act form the basis for establishing modern unions.

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One of the recent trends that are evident in the modern unions is the development of miniature bargaining agencies. Initially, workers’ unions would be comprised of a higher number of employees from the whole industry (Shaw, 2012). However, today, unions are being formed at an organizational level, a situation that has led to an increase in their number.

The legalization of unions has fueled this trend since it allows few employees to join, provided they follow the relevant tolerable formalities. The other trend that is worth mentioning is the increased number of cases that are determined by the Supreme Court (Shaw, 2012). Since the recent past, unions are increasingly approaching courts apparently due to the perceptions that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) verdicts are biased. Many of the cases that find their way to courts are mostly determined in favor of the unions.

The Status of the Negotiation Process concerning a Public and a Private Sector Union

Negotiation processes for bodies that represent employees in the public and private business world differ greatly in terms of the scope and powers that each enjoys. Unions, which represent the workers of the public sector, can bargain for higher benefits compared to the ones representing workers from the private sector. The situation is attributed to the fact that employees from the private sector risk losing their jobs if the firm becomes unprofitable due to high salaries.

The case is different for public sector workers who cannot be fired on the grounds of the lack of money to pay them (Compa, 2014). The other reason for the reduced power of the unions representing the private sector workers is that such corporations can move the business in areas with low labor costs. In contrast, the government cannot move its firms to low labor markets since such businesses are not designed to provide services to citizens. Therefore, they are non-transferable.

How this Exercise has Increased My Understanding of the Collective Bargaining Process?

This exercise has greatly improved my understanding of the collective negotiation process. Firstly, it has furthered my knowledge regarding the history of the workers’ unions and the connection of such accounts to the modern operations of the groups. Before this exercise, I knew little about the origin of the unions. Besides, I did not know that courts have greatly shaped their (unions) development. The other important lesson that I have learned from the exercise revolves around the difference between unions representing workers from the public and private sectors.

Before I handled this task, I thought that unions have the same power and influence. However, after researching the subject under study, I have learned that the unions, which represent workers from the private sector, are less powerful compared to those that represent employees from the public sector. Lastly, this task has furthered my knowledge regarding arbitration and mediation. Initially, I thought that the decision by the NLRB was final and that the unions would not appeal such rulings. However, after assembling the content in this task, I have learned that the unions can approach courts in case they are displeased by a verdict delivered by the NLRB.

Mediation and arbitration refer to the procedure of hiring a third party to help in the bargaining process. In terms of my assessment of the value of mediation and arbitration in this process, the procedure presents a win-win outcome since the collective bargaining process brings together union leaders and the employer to negotiate workers’ welfare (Compa, 2014). When employees are contented with the signed agreement, they are bound to be motivated, hence being productive in their respective companies.

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During the negotiation process, workers’ representatives present their grievances while the employer makes the offer. If the employees acknowledge the offer, a CBA is authored and made ready for implementation by the employer. However, as much as the negotiation process is simple and limited to the employer and the workers’ representatives, negotiations may fail at times. In such instances, an arbiter is sought to help in reconciling the parties. In this case, an arbiter may be either NLRB or the courts. The party hears the submissions from either side and offers an amicable solution to the problem affecting the concerned bodies.

The Value of the Various Organizational Leadership Competencies

As stated previously in this paper, the negotiation process involves holding roundtable meetings between the employer and the union leaders to deliberate the concerned issue. For union leaders to be successful in the process of lobbying the employer to better the working condition, they need to possess the right skills (Compa, 2014).

Such skills include communication, problem-solving, analytical, and teamwork expertise. The listed skills are important in the process of negotiating the CBA since they help union leaders to communicate the members’ problems with ease. Additionally, problem-solving and analytical skills help the negotiating team to solve the problem at hand. Besides the highlighted skills, union leaders need to embrace permissible and moral practices, including adopting a premeditated approach to addressing employees’ issues. The strategy should be aimed at understanding and satisfying their demands.

The Purpose of the Collective Bargaining Agreement

The CBA is a very pivotal tool that assures employees that their respective employers will act by what is written in the document stipulating the workers’ demands. The tool acts as a reminder to employers that their respective workers have to be treated as agreed upon in the CBA document, failure to which legal actions can be sought to enforce the laid-down pacts. The details of the CBA touch on areas such as employees’ protection, remuneration, working duration, and the terms that should apply in the case of overtime among others.


In the recent past, more unions have been formed to help in protecting the interest of workers in various countries around the globe. The unions have played an imperative role in ensuring that employees’ rights are respected. Unions that existed 100 years ago faced numerous obstacles, which ranged from opposition from the employers to the lack of legislation to protect their existence.

However, following active lobbying for their recognition in the law, several legislations were enacted to legalize their existence. The Supreme Court also issued several verdicts in favor of the unions, a situation that boosted the formation of unions. Today, many of them have been established to protect employees from employer-related oppression. This paper has explored the operations of the unions and their history to inform the reader about their origin and relevance in today’s society.


Compa, L. (2014). An overview of collective bargaining in the United States.

Kieler, A. (2014). NLRB judge rules that Wal-Mart illegally punished California workers for participating in protests.

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Shaw, S. (2012). Trends at the national labor relations board.

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