Labor Unions and Management Work Together

Employee and
Labor Relations
Case 10.1. Unions and
Labor Rights: Can Labor Unions
and Management Work Together?
Candice works in the human resources department for Familia Wireless, which is
a small chain of stores selling cellular wireless phones and a service center. Familia
employees are not unionized at this time. However, employees are unhappy with
salary, benefits, and the fact that the store is open until 1 a.m. to attract the nighttime
club crowd.
Candice previously worked for the Paper Coating Company (PCC), which manufactured paper coating adhesives. This type of paper is often used in greeting cards.
PCC was a unionized company. The employees voted in the IBEW (International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) to represent their 500 employees. The management team at PCC then had to bargain with the union on hours, wages, vacation time,
insurance, and safety practices.1
Thus, Candice had the opportunity to observe one company that had a unionized
workforce and one company that did not have to worry about bargaining with a union.
She noted that employees at PCC had to pay dues to be in the union. The only way
for the union to survive is to have its members pay some of their wages (dues) to the
union to cover union expenses. Thus, not having a union or dues at Familia Wireless
helps employees save money.
On the other hand, she did notice that employees at PCC were threatened with
discharge or layoff and that the union fought to protect their jobs. So, it was nice to
have union representation when management thought a worker’s job performance
was not up to standards.
Still, Candice thought the key to deciding to have a union shop was based on the
quality of the management team. If there was a good management team in place at
your company, then you wouldn’t need union representation. You were already being
treated and compensated fairly.
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54 Part III • Developing and Managing
However, if the management team was unfair in providing the correct wages, benefits, and working conditions, then a union was a good idea since it could bargain for
improvement in these areas.
Candice felt she had a unique view from her spot in HR in both companies. She
found that employees of PCC didn’t really mind their union dues since the money was
automatically deducted from their paycheck. Of course, employees knew (or should
have known) they were paying union dues.
Candice worried that if PCC decided to close the company the union would not
be overly helpful. She assumed PCC would give the employees the 60 days’ notice
required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN). PCC
could also offer job retraining at the local community college. But, when PCC wanted
to close the company, there wasn’t much the union really could do to help employees.
Candice’s father was an IBEW union member because he worked for AT&T. When
AT&T wanted to close his AT&T office in Springfield, Massachusetts, and consolidate offices into a single location in Utah, he was asked to move to Utah or have his
employment terminated.
Candice had always heard of violent times in the history of management and
unions. Just recently, Candice had heard of Verizon employees who went on strike
in 2011 when Verizon tried to freeze pensions for current workers, offer fewer sick
days, and put an end to all job security provisions. A major area of concern for the
employees was the difference in unionization in the economy; unionization is high
in the old landline corded telephone business, but the new wireless cellular business
is mostly nonunionized. Employees went on strike for 2 weeks, and many deeply felt
the loss of their paychecks during the difficult economy. Verizon, however, received a
bad reputation because service was hindered for those 2 weeks.2
Chapter Questions
1. What law requires companies to provide
employees 60 days’ notice if they are
going to close?
2. Why would employees want to pay dues
to have a union?
3. Do employees need a union if the
management team is qualified to do a
good job on its own?
4. What is the role of human resources
if a company does have a union?
5. Do you think Familia Wireless will
Case 10.2. Managing Conflicts:
How Can HR Help With Angry Employees?
Unfortunately, when two or more people work together for long periods of time, some
level of conflict will emerge. Functional conflict is a level of conflict that actually helps
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Chapter 10 • Employee and Labor Relations 55
each employee improve his or her overall performance. However, finding this beneficial level is not an easy task. Too little conflict, and employees can become complacent. Too high levels of conflict can create dysfunction that interferes with workplace
performance. A good manager will learn to tweak the office atmosphere to find the
proper level of conflict.
During times of conflict, a good manager will also find the conflict management
style that works for him or her or will change styles based upon the type of conflict.
At times the manager might use an avoiding, accommodating, forcing, negotiating,
or collaborative conflict management style. Avoiding a conflict is a passive style and
often leads to lose-lose situations since both sides lose when resolution of the conflict
is not likely. An accommodating conflict style means you passively let the other side
win the conflict and implement its solution. A forcing conflict style uses aggressive
behavior, such as authority, to threaten, intimidate, and call for majority rule when
you know you have the vote in your favor. Negotiating requires finding a compromise
that attempts to resolve the conflict through a give-and-take of the issues involved
until a solution is found. Last, a collaborative style requires working with the other
party in the conflict and finding an acceptable solution.
Unfortunately, managers will find it difficult to keep dysfunctional conflict from
entering their workplace. Brian Hoffman started his own appliance store designed to
provide builders with washers, dryers, refrigerators, and other appliances for a newly
built homes. His business grew to include selling appliances to the consumer market
through 10 retail outlets. Brian worked out of the main headquarters in Windsor. The
human resources, accounting, and marketing departments were also placed at the
Brian heard that two workers in his West Hampton store were arguing on the retail
floor in front of customers. He sent two HR employees to investigate the problem. It
turned out that the two employees had a long-standing problem about who would
receive customers as they entered the store. Since the retail employees worked on
commission, they both wanted to help customers and fought for them as they entered
the store. This was obviously an aggressive form of conflict that was resulting in You
Lose, I Win.
Brian asked his HR department to develop a program with which too high a level
of conflict could be resolved. Avoiding the problem did not seem like a good solution
since the problem was occurring at the point of greeting and helping customers. He
also didn’t want to force a solution onto the two employees. Ultimately, he wanted to
develop a collaborative solution where both parties would like the outcome.
HR decided to look at compensation solutions within a similar setting—selling
automobiles. As a growing appliance supplier, Brian’s company needed to establish
some rules and policies that weren’t needed when it was a small business. HR found
that car dealerships used a rotating process when customers arrived. Each salesperson would take the next customer as he or she arrived. If more customers arrived at
once than could be handled, then all sales personnel would do their best to handle
the overflow evenly.
HR also advised Brian to review the compensation system. A compensation system based on salary instead of commission would also lessen the rivalry between
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56 Part III • Developing and Managing
Fortunately, the new method of greeting customers was accepted by all retail floor
salespeople. The new compensation system based on salary versus commission was
being further evaluated.
Brian was satisfied with the results in the employee conflict situation. However,
he was concerned about future conflict situations. For example, it was becoming
more likely that his growing business would have to discharge employees for not
performing up to expectations. Was HR up to the task of processing employees out
of the company? Would those employees become violent? HR plays a support role in
these serious conflicts: HR can help improve communication between the manager
and the employee. HR can be a witness to the confrontation between the two parties.
HR can help the employee calm down and return peacefully to the job while looking
into the issue. Otherwise, HR can call security or police to help control the disturbed
Brian asked HR to create a program to reduce workplace stress. He wanted to avoid
high-level conflict situations before they occurred. Brian also had the realization
that his little business was no longer little. There were employees in his business
he had never met. While he was busy selling and ordering appliances, HR was busy
hiring new employees. He decided to spend more time with HR before he built any
new retail sites.
Case Questions
1. Is all conflict bad?
2. What would be the difference between a
forcing style and a collaborative style to
resolve a conflict?
3. What is the role of HR in resolving
workplace conflicts among employees?
4. What is the role of HR in cases with a
potentially violent employee?
5. How can HR use the Conflict
Resolution Model?
1. Rowe, Randy Hicks, “What Challenges Do Unions Pose for Human Resource Management?”
Houston Chronicle: Small Business,
2. Greenhouse, Steven, “Verizon Workers Plan to End Strike, Agreeing to Revive Talks Toward
a Contract,” The New York Times, August 20, 2011,
3. Maurer, Roy, “When and How Should HR Step Into Violent Situations?” Society for Human
Resource Management, May 25, 2015,
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