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Conflict in Unionized Organizations
More information for labor union leaders

"Labor-management conflict" is a well-worn phrase, but perhaps not a necessary one. Collective bargaining, which seeks to protect workers' rights, is not necessarily an adversarial process, and certainly not one that inevitably results in coercive actions such as strikes and lock-outs. Still, conflict in unionized settings is among the most costly* forms of organizational conflict.

The Track 2 option is recommended for both managers and labor leaders in unionized organizations. The Track 3 option is recommended for human resource and employee relations professionals and other support staff. Note the team discount.

See also information for union leaders, employee relations professionals, and technical and non-supervisory employees.

Follow links in the "Conference Info" panel to the left for program details. Print this one-page flyer

* Click for complimentary access to the Dana Measure of Financial Cost of Organizational Conflict, an on-line calculator producing immediate results. Also compute the financial return-on-investment in conflict management training.

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Edited by Melissa Zarda. See other bibliographies.
Contributors: Nicky Parson, Esra Alagoz, Jason Elkhay

Copyright restriction: The contents of this bibliography may not be placed on other websites, but links from other websites may be directed to this page. Hardcopies of this page may be printed for academic purposes.

  • Baker, Paddy. (2002). State of the Unions. Works Management, Vol. 55 Issue 5, p14, 3p.

This article reports on the results of a survey conducted on the roles unions play in the manufacturing workplaces of the 21st century and what the relationship with management is like. The article noted that unions on some sites can be suspicious of, improvements by management and that there had been reports of management being so hostile to the introduction of unions on their sites that representatives have had to be smuggled on to the premises.

  • Barling, J., Kelloway, E.K., & Harvey, S. (Feb-March 1998) Changing employment relations: what can unions do?. Canadian Psychology .

This article discusses the current challenges facing labor unions in Canada . The article identifies four main challenges that are affecting unions in the current economy. The first is the changing nature of work, the second is new human resources management models, third, changing demographics and fourth, political and legislative actions are all affecting organized labor. The article also examines what unions can do to retain their viability and effectiveness by focusing on three areas: Organizing, Expanding their mandate to focus on social policy, and developing new strategies and focus on different segments of the economy.

  • Bernstein, Aaron. (2003). GE and Labor: This Could Get Ugly. Business Week, Issue 3835, p54, 2p, 1c.

This article discusses General Electric (GE), their union, and the conflict between the two over issues such as Health Care and retirement plans. GE’s unions mounted a two-day strike over health care and now the battle goes on as the two try to avoid a full blown labor stoppage before the contract expires.

  • Britt, D., & Galle, O. R. (Feb., 1972) Industrial Conflict and Unionization. American Sociological Review , Vol. 37, No. 1. pp. 46-57.

This article analyzes the impact of three independent variables (proneness to conflict, extensity of conflict and intensity of conflict) on the industrial conflict (i.e. volume of conflict).The authors use quantitative techniques to find out the relationship between the variables. They also look at unionization and test the effects of degree of unionization and average union size on the industrial conflict. They found that extensity of conflict and proneness to conflict has a strong relationship with volume of conflict while intensity of conflict has a weak relation. Their findings also highlight the various impacts of unionization on the volume of conflict.

  • Brodsky, Norm. (Feb, Mar 2005). Subcontracting Made Easy and Why the Union Can’t Win - It's time for labor leaders to start thinking like business leaders. Inc. Vol. 27 Issue 2, p47, 2p, 1c.

These articles describe the issues a manager has with the local union at a job site. The manager has a problem with a general contractor, who is union, and the next time he needs some work done, he looks into and hires a non-union subcontractor. This causes much conflict between the local union and the manager.

  • De la Cruz, Tony (2005). Panel to debate role of labor unions in hotel industry. Hotel & Motel Management; Vol. 220 Issue 10, p34, 2p.

The article reports on a panel discussion on labor unions and their role in the hospitality industry. It is mentioned that management can beat a union campaign by listening to employee concerns, and it can lose a union campaign by responding to employees in the wrong way. One person in the article sees labor unions as the stabilizing third party that has created a work force with high productivity, low grievance, and no employee lawsuits. He contends that such a work force yields the best customer service.

  • Elswick, Jill. (2004). UFCW strike augers further conflict over health benefits. Employee Benefit News, Vol. 18 Issue 3, p1, 2p, 2c.

This article discusses the strike that occurred in Southern California among the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) over medical benefits. This article noted that experts said that the outcome would set a new precedent for labor relations and could possibly influence the national debate over health care access and affordability. The article also mentions how other unions across the nation pledged the support to the UFCW.

  • Fiala, Jennifer. (2005). Labor Union Vies for Change. DVM: The Newsmagazine of Veterinary Medicine Vol. 36 Issue 6, p1, 3p.

This article discusses how a few hospital members unionized at a Veterinary Hospital in order to fight for better wages and health care. The workers felt that there was no connection between the board of directors and them so they unionized so that their voices would be heard. The article also discusses how management did not take the workers seriously until they unionized.

  • Freeman, J.B. (Spring 1997). Strike weapon: can it still work?. The Dissent.

This article deals with the rise and decline of organized labor and it's influence over the production of the American economy. The main point is the question can strikes still be effective in labor unions getting what they want and need. The article uses the example of Barnard College and its ability to outlast the striking clerical workers. The college continued operating for seven months while the workers struck and picketed the campus. By the time the Fall semester rolled around the students tended to ignore the strike, professors stopped taking classes off campus. The union finally agreed to a contract with the college. This example was balanced by the example of the NYNEX strike of 1989. This strike was effective due to proper planning and support.

  • Galvin, K. (March 1997). Frustrated physicians unionize. The (Oklahoma City) Journal Record.

T his article details the experience of the doctors at the Thomas –Davis Medical Centers in Tucson, AZ. The doctors decided to join an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in response to the hospitals and HMO's that were taking control of patient care from the doctors. This caused many conflicts with physicians attempting to treat their patients with the best possible care. The article points out that the HMO's seem to be accepting of the idea of physicians organizing. These movements are taking place across medical disciplines as well with neurosurgeons in FL and podiatrists in New York either joining unions or reviewing their options.

  • Kessler-Harris, A. (August 1987). Trade unions mirror society in conflict between collectivism and individualism. Monthly Labor Review.

This article describes the ways unions evolved with society and changed from their original roots as a social leveler to a means to better the worker economically or financially. The origins of unions were rooted in the idea that through organization the individual would have a greater voice in the democratic process. This began to change as some unions realized they could use the power gained through the collective voice to better the living conditions of its members. New ideas created new conflicts with the management they served. According to the article unions and collective movements became politically active and drove some of the social legislation such as the Fair Labor Standards Act.

  • Kolodny, D. (June 1995). Driving fear out of labor-management relationships. The Journal for Quality and Participation.

This article discusses the fear some in labor and in management have about forming close partnerships with the other. The interests of both sides are represented in this article with attention given to the concerns of management and the union. Here it is suggested that each party meet half way so as to fulfill as many of the goals the other has set. The article also mentions that each side is leery of giving in to the other because of the perception that they will lose control thus open them up to manipulation by the other side.

  • Hellowell, Mark. (2003). Peace breaks out in the labour movement. Public Private Finance, Issue 71, p10, 2p.

The author discovers a renewed spirit of co-operation between government and the union in the wake of an agreement to end the local two-tier workforce. This will be tested as unions seek to extend the agreement to other parts of the public sector. Unions have argued for many years that though existing staff who transfer to private companies have their pay, conditions and pensions protected, new starters are often paid substantially less, leading to a two-tier workforce which damages public services.

  • Jamerson, Louis. (2004). South African Labor and Government: Compromise or Conflict? Social Policy, Vol. 35 Issue 1, p41, 3p, 3bw.

This article discusses the post-apartheid labor movement in South Africa and how it has become emblematic of not only the struggle of workers, but the global struggle of labor unions to maintain a viable relationship with government without sacrificing the interest of their members or the integrity of the labor movement.

  • Katz, Harry C. (2002). Recent developments in U.S. collective bargaining and employment practices. Society in Transition, 2002, Vol. 33 Issue 2, p204, 9p.

This article discusses how union revitalization includes union efforts to change the progress and outcomes of collective bargaining. The author discusses the diversity in the labor market and how it can have an effect on the unions. The author also discusses the diverse outcomes in collective bargaining and changes in the structure of collective bargaining.

  • Marquez, Jessica. (2005). United Faces Tough Morale Challenges. Workforce Management, Vol. 84 Issue 6, p15, 2p, 3c.

This article discusses some of the issues that United Airlines is having with their employees as they try to recover from bankruptcy. After rounds of salary cuts and the pending termination of the company's defined-benefit plan, including pensions, United will be forced to deal with disgruntled workers and the task of convincing prospective employees that the carrier is a company for which they want to work.

  • Mcphaul, John. (2004). Unions threaten general strike in response to ultimatum. Caribbean Business, Vol. 32 Issue 53, p43, 1/2p.

The article reports on the conflict between the Puerto Rico trade unions and the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa). Prasa gave an ultimatum that they would fire and replace more than 4,400 Prasa workers already on strike. According to the union leader, Puerto Rico workers have “proprietary rights” to their jobs, meaning they can’t be fired without due process of law. Prasa management refused to entertain a union counterproposal to its final offer during the last negotiation meeting.

  • Prasow, P., & Peters, E. (1970) Arbitration and collective bargaining: conflict resolution in labor relation. New York, McGraw-Hill, Inc.

This book is about conflict resolution in union-management relations. The authors focus on the arbitral decision making in collective bargaining. They give a theoretical framework to understand the arbitration process. The authors analyze the importance of contracts on the conflict resolution. The book also contains a number of cases from actual arbitration opinions and awards.

  • Rachleff, Peter. (2005). A "Labor Intensive" Strategy. Tikkun, Vol. 20 Issue 3, p49, 2p.

This article gives a few examples of the strategies some unions have used in order to put pressure on management. In order to get their point across to management or to convey their seriousness, some unions form even stronger bonds and play an important role in shifting the balance of power in a labor-management conflict.

  • Ripps, Samara Shever. (2004). Labor Union Tackles Workplace Conflict. Retrieved from the web June 22, 2005. http://www.mediate.com/articles/ripps1.cfm.

This article discusses what the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is doing to help their members resolve conflict. The union has a conflict resolution program, which offers a unique opportunity to design a conflict management system that focuses on resolving problems without resorting to the time consuming and costly grievance procedures.

  • Ruth, João-Pierre S. (2004). Caregivers at an Impasse. Njbiz, 10/4/2004, Vol. 17 Issue 40, p22, 3p, 1c.

This article reports on a nursing strike and their conflict with management over scheduling and staffing issues. They are at an impasse because the hospital wants to maintain control over the scheduling and the nurses want more control over the scheduling as well as more help. It is also noted that it is possible for nurses and management to come to an agreement and an example is given.

  • Shinkman, R. (May 1996). Labor clash may signal future showdowns - Kaiser Permanente. Los Angeles Business Journal.

This article details the fight between the SEIU and Kaiser Permanente over the restructuring of Kaiser in an effort to reduce costs. The union organized in an attempt to force Kaiser to hold public hearings to discuss the proposed restructuring. The union claimed that they were concerned that the restructuring would have a negative effect on the ability of workers to care for patients. Kaiser claimed that the restructuring was necessary and that the union was concerned only about its own financial interests.

  • Waddington, Lawrence C. (1999). Alternative Dispute Resolution: Evolving Ethics. Los Angeles Daily Journal. Downloaded June 2005. http://www.judgewaddington-adr.com/articles/evolving_ethics.htm

This article describes how the Arbitration practice utilities the knowledge and skills of those employed in a particular trade or industry to resolve contractual disputes between two or more private parties. Discussion of how arbitrators use their experience in different industries to assist in labor union/management disputes. This article discusses labor arbitrators, commercial arbitrators, arbitration in Securities One industry, and arbitrators in the entertainment industry.

  • Walton, R. E., & McKersie, R. B. A behavioral theory of labor negotiation: an analysis of a social interaction system . Second edition. Ithaca , N.Y. : ILR Press, 1991. Reprint, with new introduction. Originally published, New York : McGraw-Hill, 1965.

This book originally written in 1965 was an early work in the field of negotiation. This book relates behavioral science to the negotiation process. The authors identify four parts of negotiation: distributive bargaining, integrative bargaining, intraorganizational bargaining, and attitudinal bargaining. Use of negotiation focused on management can deal with labor and how to work through conflicts in bargaining.

  • Welch, David. (2004). A Breakthrough For Labor. Business Week, Issue 3894, p86, 2p, 1 chart, 1c.

Union leaders and some outside experts have contended that labor's long-term decline stems not so much from workers' lack of interest in unions but rather from fierce opposition by management. This article discusses how the United Auto Workers Union has increased over the years and how they had fight with management in order to keep growing as an organization.

  • Wheeler, Hoyt N. (2005). The Third Way. Business & Economic Review, Vol. 51 Issue 2, p6,3p.

This article reports on how unions have to “even the playing field” between them and management. The author discusses how the unions have to use nontraditional strategies for constraining management opposition as well as to gain governmental support; two key conditions in order for a strong labor union to exist in a national system.

  • Williams, Fred. (2003). Yale unions see conflicts at endowment. Pensions & Investments, 7/21/2003, Vol. 31 Issue 15, p2, 2p, 2c.

This article discusses the 12-page report detailing relationships between the Yale endowment fund management and some of its outside investment managers prepared by the Federation of Hospital and University Employees, which is an organization of four unions representing Yale employees. According to Yale officials, the accusations by the unions are nothing but high-pressure negotiating rhetoric.

  • Williams, M.E. (Winter 2001). Learning the limits of power: privatization and state-labor interactions in Mexico. Latin American Politics and Society.

This article discusses the conflict between privatization over the objections of organized labor in Mexico . The organized labor movement in Mexico of the time was relatively strong and those outside of Mexico did not expect the existing administration to have much luck in privatizing the traditionally state run programs such as telecommunications and natural resources. Three main reasons for the success of the administration ability to privatize these and other industries were centralized power, political savvy, and weak opposition.

  • Wolfe, Pam. (2003). The New Mexico Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association's Quality Connection. New Mexico Business Journal, Dec2003, Vol. 27 Issue 12, p13, 4p, 3c, 2bw.

This article discusses the cooperation between the management and laborers of the New Mexico chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NM-NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). This article also reports on the development of Quality Connection, which brings contractors (management) and electricians (labor) together working to set up programs, training and the best services for the end user.