Throughout the course of history, there have been various labor laws that have had significant impacts on organizations in general, and union-management relationships in particular. This has been said in order to garner a better understanding of the dynamics that characterizes union-management relationships in today’s organizational context. It is important to consider five major labor laws that have been instituted the United States of America: the Railway Labor Act; the Norris-La Guardia Act; the Wagner Act; the Taft-Hartley Act; the Landrum-Griffin Act.
First, upon considering the Railway Labor Act it must be noted that it is a federal law that governs all labor relationships in the railroad and airline industries. Since its initial creation, the act has been twice amended so as to enhance the quality of the relationships that exist between management and unions in the aforementioned industries (Javits, n.d.). These industries are important due to the fact that they allow for transportation of people, goods, and services. In other words, these are industries that must function efficiently and uninterruptedly so that the country’s overall economic performance could improve. This is exactly why the Railway Labor Act strives for bargaining, mediation, and arbitration to be used as the only means for solving differences between management and unions. This effectively eliminates the threat of strikes, thus imposing no threat of economic downfall on the basis of service/production interruption.
Second, upon considering the Norris-La Guardia Act, it is important to note that since its passing in 1932, it has signified a major improvement in labor dispute resolution. Before the creation of this law, employers could effectively disenfranchise employees from unions, and federal courts could issue injunctions even in instances in which labor disputes were nonviolent (Reynolds, 1982). Since the Norris-La Guardia Act became a law, however, things have changed (mostly for the employees’ and labor unions’ benefit). This was a law that has had major implications for organizations and for union-management relationships, namely because it fortified unions (and therefore employees’ voice, their rights, and also their privileges). Organizations may have initially found this law to go directly against their interests (namely their revenue stream), but in the end it only naturally follows that its impact has been fundamentally good (as it has created incentives for employees to be more efficient and committed).
Third, the Wagner Act, which was created and passed into law in 1935 (and last amended in 1956), protected the rights of employees working in the private sector. Specifically the Wagner Act was important because it allowed employees in the private sector to discuss various labor-related matters with coworkers (including the possibility of organizing into a labor union), engage in collective bargaining with management, and actively participate in all activities developed to support their demands, including strikes (Reynolds, 1982). As well, this was a law that created a figure known as the National Labor Relations Board (Reynolds, 1982), which was charged with conducting elections in labor unions (in order to elect leadership positions) and with awarding collective bargaining requirements to employees, thus more zealously protecting the employees’ rights and privileges. Based on this, it should become clear that this is another law that has managed to strengthen the norms and rules that have been set for the union-management relationships (across all industries).
Fourth, the Taft-Hartley Act was a law that since its creation in 1947 has effectively restricted the activities and the power of labor unions in the United States. Vastly criticized by the union leaders, who even branded it as the slave-labor bill, effectively banned unions from engaging in jurisdictional strikes (or any other kind of strikes, for that matter), boycotts, mass picketing, and closed shops. Furthermore, this act effectively banned labor unions from making political donations in federal-level campaigns, and it required all union officers to provide non-communist affidavits (Park, 1949). In a word, this was a law that ultimately strained the relationship between employees and management, simply because it guaranteed that no matter what employees’ sentiments were, they were obligated by the law to continue working (even if their demands were not being met).
Finally, the Landrum-Griffin Act, was a law that also protected employees in general, and labor unions in particular. Among its provisions stood the following: the right (and obligation) to hold secret elections; full employee protection under a bill of rights; establishing trusteeship in unions so as to limit the power of individual officers/leaders; establish minimum criteria before an employee could be expelled from a union (Benson, n.d.). In short, the Landrum-Griffin Act created a system of checks and balances for unions, thus improving employee status within the unions themselves (relative to the power held by union officers/leaders).
Having reviewed these five laws, as well as their major provisions, it becomes clear that throughout the years, the United States’ government has been overly inclined to protect employees (even more so than it has moved to protect business owners and managers). Through their respective provisions, each of these acts significantly affected the dynamics of the union-management relationships (throughout all industries and market niches), primarily because they set forth a series of specific norms and directives for each party (management and labor unions) to act under given conditions. Despite the fact that some of these laws were more effective than others in achieving their purpose, it should be clear that at the aggregate level, they have all managed to greatly improve the union-management relationships, as well as overall organizational performance.