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The Impact of Unions on Organizations

30 October, 2015 - 16:03

You may wonder why organizations are opposed to unions. As we have mentioned, since union workers do receive higher wages, this can be a negative impact on the organization. Unionization also impacts the ability of managers to make certain decisions and limits their freedom when working with employees. For example, if an employee is constantly late to work, the union contract will specify how to discipline in this situation, resulting in little management freedom to handle this situation on a case-by-case basis. In 2010, for example, the Art Institute of Seattle faculty filed signatures and voted on unionization.  1 Some of the major issues were scheduling issues and office space, not necessarily pay and benefits. While the particular National Labor Relations Board vote was no to unionization, a yes vote could have given less freedom to management in scheduling, since scheduling would be based on collective bargaining contracts. Another concern about unionization for management is the ability to promote workers. A union contract may stipulate certain terms (such as seniority) for promotion, which means the manager has less control over the employees he or she can promote.

Collective Bargaining and Administration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement discuss the collective bargaining and grievance processes.

Key Takeaways

  • Union membership in the United States has been slowly declining. Today, union membership consists of about 11.9 percent of the workforce, while in 1983 it consisted of 20 percent of the workforce.
  • The reasons for decline are varied, depending on whom you ask. Some say the moving of jobs overseas is the reason for the decline, while others say unions’ hard-line tactics put them out of favor.
  • Besides declining membership, union challenges today include globalization and companies’ wanting a union-free workplace.
  • The United States began its first labor movement in the 1800s. This was a result of low wages, no vacation time, safety issues, and other issues.
  • Many labor organizations have disappeared, but the American Federation of Labor (AFL) still exists today, although it merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and is now known as the AFL-CIO. It is the largest labor union and represents local labor unions in a variety of industries.
  • The United States has a low number of union members compared with other countries. Much of Europe, for example, has over 30 percent of their workforce in labor unions, while in some countries as much as 50 percent of the workforce are members of a labor union.
  • Legislation has been created over time to support both labor unions and the companies who have labor unions. The Railway Labor Act applies to airlines and railroads and stipulates that employees may not strike until they have gone through an extensive dispute resolution process. The Norris-LaGuardia Act madeyellow-dog contracts illegal and barred courts from issuing injunctions.
  • The Wagner Act was created to protect employees from retaliation should they join a union. The Taft-Hartley Act was developed to protect companies from unfair labor practices by unions.
  • The National Labor Relations Board is the overseeing body for labor unions, and it handles disputes between companies as well as facilitates the process of new labor unions in the developing stages. Its job is to enforce both the Wagner Act and the Taft-Hartley Act.
  • The Landrum Griffin Act was created in 1959 to combat corruption in labor unions during this time period.
  • To form a union, the organizer must have signatures from 30 percent of the employees. If this occurs, the National Labor Relations Board will facilitate a card check to determine more than 50 percent of the workforce at that company is in agreement with union representation. If the company does not accept this, then the NLRB holds secret elections to determine if the employees will be unionized. A collective bargaining agreement is put into place if the vote is yes.
  • Companies prefer to not have unions in their organizations because it affects costs and operational productivity. Companies will usually try to prevent a union from organizing in their workplace.
  • Managers are impacted when a company does unionize. For example, management rights are affected, and everything must be guided by the contract instead of management prerogative.


  1. Visit the National Labor Relations Board website. View the “weekly case summary” and discuss it in at least two paragraphs, stating your opinion on this case.
  2. Do you agree with unionization within organizations? Why or why not? List the advantages and disadvantages of unions to the employee and the company.