Most labor unions unlikely to follow decertification path of NFL players

May 25, 2011

With legislation to diminish private- and public-sector collective bargaining rights already in the books in Wisconsin and Ohio, should more labor unions steal a page from the playbook of the NFL Players Association and decertify? Although there are parallels between the pros and regular Joes (and Janes), union decertification is not a viable strategy for ordinary workers to use when bargaining for better wages and working conditions, says a University of Illinois law and labor expert.

Whether it's a teacher in Wisconsin or a construction worker in Indiana, what ordinary workers and NFL players have in common is that "collective bargaining is so stacked against them, they have very little to negotiate over," said Michael LeRoy, a professor of law and of labor and employment relations at Illinois.

Ultimately, it's not a legal matter but an economic one for both and unionized workers.

"That's how the felt – we have a union, but the other side is crushing us," LeRoy said. "If you're a member of a teachers union in Wisconsin, you're probably thinking the same thing – what's the point of having a union when you can't bargain? So there are parallels between unionized workers and NFL players. But I'm not sure how realistic it is for the average union to think they can accomplish their goals more effectively if they choose to decertify and drop out of labor law."

According to LeRoy, who specializes in employment and labor law, the main rationale for state collective-bargaining laws was to take labor disputes that were being fought (sometimes literally) in the streets or on picket lines and put them in a conference room where parties could bargain in a highly regulated process.

If workers disbanded their union and reconstituted as a voluntary trade association, similar to what NFL did last March, LeRoy says there inevitably would be more work stoppages over grievances.

"In that format, you could have workers who coordinate days they don't show up to work," he said. "Another issue is grievance settlement through arbitration. The Wisconsin law, as I understand it, curbs arbitration substantially. Well, arbitration was put in place as substitute for interrupting work over a grievance. So if a worker was fired or disciplined and we thought it was unfair, back in the 1930s and earlier we would put down our tools and go out to the parking lot. We wouldn't fight, we would just say nothing's getting done until our colleague is treated fairly. That's the kind of system we would return to if unions disbanded."
Ironically, the use of arbitration in lieu of striking came about through Republican-backed .

"But in Wisconsin and Ohio, we've taken that model and turned it upside down," LeRoy said.

But for all the criticism it gets, LeRoy says that labor law has worked in terms of producing negotiated outcomes in the vast majority of disputes.

"Our experience over decades shows that parties resort to their economic weapons – for owners, a lockout, and for , a strike – in fewer than 2 percent of negotiations," he said.

Explore further: Narcissistic CEOs and financial performance

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

AT&T-union negotiations expected down to the wire

Apr 03, 2009

(AP) -- Negotiators for AT&T Inc. and union officials representing 112,500 employees said Friday they expect to bargain into the weekend on five labor contracts that expire Saturday night.

Finnish technology workers warn of strike

Nov 16, 2009

(AP) -- Some 2,000 employees in Finland's technology sector will begin a strike in two weeks time if no agreement is reached in labor talks with company managers, union leaders said Wednesday.

Unions make both members, nonmembers happier

Feb 25, 2011

As the Wisconsin battle over union benefits continues to rage, the passion and commitment of people on both sides reflect that the activists are fighting over “a perennial ideological debate in American politics: whether ...

Unions make both members and nonmembers happier

Nov 05, 2010

It’s no coincidence that American workers have never been more dissatisfied with their jobs, and labor unions’ membership keeps dropping, according to a new study co-authored by University of Notre Dame political scienti ...

Recommended for you

Narcissistic CEOs and financial performance

Jul 24, 2014

Narcissism, considered by some as the "dark side of the executive personality," may actually be a good thing when it comes to certain financial measures, with companies led by narcissistic CEOs outperforming those helmed ...

Drugmaker GSK slashes annual profits forecast

Jul 23, 2014

British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline on Wednesday slashed its 2014 profits forecast as second-quarter earnings sank on the back of weak US trade, adverse currency moves and a Chinese bribery probe.

User comments : 0