Question for the Readers of This Blog: Obligation to Deal with Unions

I am no expert on labor law.  As we watch Chrysler go into bankruptcy, many on the Right blame the unions for the American car companies’ problems.  They say that the American car companies are at competitive disadvantage to their foreign competitor (even those with plants in the U.S., mainly in the South) because the U.S. companies have unionized workers (and very high health care costs as a result) and the foreign ones don’t (needless to say this leaves out the fact that the Southern states have given generous tax breaks to the foreign car companies).

But is there any legal requirement that the U.S. companies negotiate with the unions?  Why isn’t all of the blame on the management of these firms?  The unions and their leaders have a responsibility to their members, not to the car companies.  There obligation is to get the best deal for their members.   Management and the Big 3’s Directors have the responsibility to get the best deal for their company, not the unions.  Unless there is a legal requirement to bargain AND come to an agreement with the unions, no one forced the Big 3 to sign the deals that gave the unions their CBAs and the health care coverage and other benefits.  I understand that they may have signed these deals for business or political reasons, but that is thierere decision and problem.

Any insight in the comments would be greatly appreciated.

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2 Responses to “Question for the Readers of This Blog: Obligation to Deal with Unions”

  1. FolioGuru Says:

    According to someone who used to work for NLRB and now works for us, told me, after he read the post:

    “Federal law requires that the Employer negotiate with the Union that has been selected/certified as the representative of employees who are in the bargaining unit over matters concerning “mandatory” subjects of bargaining, which, generally speaking are matters that directly relate to an employee’s terms and conditions of employment, such as wages, benefits, workplace safety, etc. The Employer is legally required to negotiate with the Union over mandatory subjects of bargaining. Since the car companies are asking for economic concessions from employees (i.e., wages/benefits are mandatory subjects of bargaining), the companies must bargain with the employees’ union about the concessions. While an Employer would have no legal obligation to negotiate with the Union about shutting down operations completely (except for something called “effects bargaining” having to do with the effects of the shutdown on employees), the car companies here are not seeking to shut down completely; rather, they are attempting to avoid shutting down completely (i.e., shut down forever).”

    Also, another of our folks informed me, that once an employer recognizes a union, they are bound by Federal law to always negotiate with that union. As it was said to me there’s “no this isn’t working out we’re going to do something else”.

  2. In Defense of Bankers’ Bonuses and Union Contracts « Political Junkie Goes Hollywood Says:

    […] is a follow up to a question I posted on this blog asking whether companies were obligated to agree to a contract with their unions.  Full […]

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