A Proposal for Labor Law Reform - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 62, No. 4
Dr. Walter J. Gershenfeld, an arbitrator and mediator, is an emeritus professor of industrial relations at Temple University. He has served as president of both the Industrial Relations Research Association (now the Labor and Employment Relations Association) and the National Academy of Arbitrators. His honors include the George W. Taylor award from the American Arbitration Association and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the IRRA.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
How labor law should be changed to protect worker representation rights, allow first agreements to be negotiated, address the more professional work force, and improve labor-management cooperation.
This article proposes a four-fold approach to labor law reform in the United States. A strong case can be made for a new law to reflect the imbalance between management and unions and other changes that have occurred in the workplace.
Union membership has fallen from a post- World War II high covering more than one-third of the labor force to a present low of about 13%. Unions in manufacturing amount to less than 10% of total employment. Management is increasingly in charge in many relationships, and the strike is not the threat that it was in the past.
Thomas Kochan identified a number of changes in the American workplace,1 particularly the move from an industrial economy to a service-based economy and the rise of knowledge-based work. He noted that workers—from professional to front-line personnel—increasingly perform quasi-supervisory roles, which has raised questions about their status as bargaining-unit members. Kochan discussed several approaches to better effectuate worker representation. Among these are card counts instead of representation elections, as recommended in the Employee Free Choice Act, and European-style work councils.2 Kochan observed that we have had short-lived windows of opportunity for change in the past, but we have not taken advantage of them.