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An Introduction to Labor Law

An Introduction to Labor Law

Michael Evan Gold
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 3
Published by: Cornell University Press,
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  • Book Info
    An Introduction to Labor Law
    Book Description:

    An Introduction to Labor Law is a useful and course-tested primer that explains the basic principles of the federal law regulating the relationship of employers to labor unions. In this updated third edition, which features a new introduction, Michael Evan Gold discusses the law that applies to union organizing and representation elections, the duty to bargain in good faith, economic weapons such as strikes and lockouts, and the enforcement of collective bargaining agreements. Gold describes the structure and functions of the National Labor Relations Board and of the federal courts in regard to labor cases and also presents a number of legal issues presently in contention between labor and management.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7055-4
    Subjects: Law, Political Science, Business

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. 1-9)

    Learning the law is less like studying mathematics, and more like studying the web of a spider. The student of mathematics can learn the most basic operation, and proceed step by step to advanced operations that depend only on the previous ones. The student of law finds that one legal idea does not lead to another so much as that every idea connects to every other idea, and even fundamental principles require knowledge of other principles. In a sense, one needs to know everything in order to understand anything.

    Yet not everything can be explained at the same time. This...

    (pp. 10-13)

    Employers took their labor troubles to court almost as soon as America became independent. We are a nation of many states; each state has its own courts, and they have often disagreed with one another about labor cases. As a result, accurate generalizations about labor law in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are hard to make. Nevertheless, most students of early labor law would probably agree that the courts in those days were unsympathetic to unions. Whenever unions devised an effective new tactic against employers (for example, strikes; later, boycotts), the courts responded to employers’ complaints with new laws to...

    (pp. 14-35)

    In 1935, Congress recognized unions as legitimate representatives of workers. The National Labor Relations Act (sometimes called the Wagner Act) requiredprivateemployers to deal with unions and prohibited discrimination against union members. (Publicemployers, that is, federal, state, and local governments, are not covered by the Labor Act.) Employers who violated the Wagner Act could be tried before the National Labor Relations Board, which had the power to order them to stop the illegal behavior and compensate the victims for lost pay. As a check on the power of the Labor Board, the law provided that appeals from the...

    (pp. 36-44)

    The National Labor Relations Board (often referred to as the “NLRB”) has primary responsibility for administering the Labor Act. The board is located in Washington, D.C., and has two branches. One branch is a tribunal that decides cases. It has five members, though most cases are decided by panels of three members. The other branch is the Office of the General Counsel. The general counsel is an independent officer who is responsible for prosecuting unfair labor practice cases. Members of the board and the general counsel are appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate.


    (pp. 45-61)

    As we noted above, an employer may extend direct recognition to a union that represents the majority of workers in a bargaining unit. In this event, the law is not actively involved in the creation of the bargaining relationship. But, as we also noted, disputes can arise between the employer and the union, and the law becomes involved in settling those disputes. Important issues may arise, including which jobs should be grouped together into a bargaining unit, how should unions and employers conduct themselves during preelection campaigns, and who should vote in the election? This chapter presents the answers that...

    (pp. 62-76)

    The purpose of the Labor Act is to promote collective bargaining.Collective bargainingis defined as the duty “to meet at reasonable times and confer in good faith with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.” Sections 8(a)(5) and 8(b)(3) of the Labor Act make it an unfair labor practice for an employer or a union to refuse to bargain in good faith. This chapter deals with how the duty to bargain is applied to several specific situations.

    If neither side wishes to discuss anything, there is no duty to meet. One side must request a...

    (pp. 77-85)

    If collective bargaining is unsuccessful, employers and unions may resort to economic force to get what they want. This chapter discusses the rules of economic warfare.

    An employer’s most powerful economic weapon is the right to refuse to agree to a union’s demands. When a union asks for more money or better working conditions, and an employer says no, the law allows the business to stay open and the terms of employment to remain the same. The union must then accept the present terms or attempt to force the employer to change.

    An employer’s second most powerful economic weapon is...

    (pp. 86-97)

    Suppose negotiations between a company and a union have been successful. An agreement has been approved, and labor peace reigns for a while. Nevertheless, disputes are likely to arise over what the agreement means or how it should be applied to a specific case. Usually, the union complains that the employer has not lived up to his promises, and, occasionally, the employer makes the same complaint about the union. These disputes are usually resolved through arbitration.

    A number of labor leaders and scholars believe that a union should not rely on arbitration or litigation to make an employer honor a...

    (pp. 98-98)

    Labor law is incomplete. It grows every day as the Labor Board and the courts interpret and apply it.

    We have pointed out several issues that are alive today. One issue is whether unions may spend an objecting member’s dues to lobby the legislature on a bill that affects collective bargaining. Another is whether contingent workers who are jointly employed by a staffing firm and a user employer should be included in the same bargaining unit as the permanent employees of the user company. Perhaps the greatest issue is whether the Labor Board should be restructured so that it would...

  13. INDEX
    (pp. 99-104)