Labor Union Vs. Human Resource Management Functions

by Debbie A. Duran; Updated September 26, 2017

The goal of human resources management is to ensure that the organization attracts and retains qualified candidates in order to achieve organizational goals and objectives. The union consists of employees within the company who join together to ensure that employment-related issues such as leave, meal breaks, promotions and pay increases are handled fairly.

National Labor Relations Act

In 1935, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was signed into law by Congress. It was designed to protect the rights of employees and employers and to encourage collective bargaining. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is the federal agency whose role is to protect the rights of private sector employees who want to or who have joined a union with the intent to improve their wages and working conditions.

Human Resources' Role

In a unionized environment, human resources (HR) represents the organization's best interests in negotiations with the union. Whenever agreements are reached, HR is responsible for the interpretation and implementation of any agreements reached. HR is ultimately responsible for controlling and directing the activities of its workforce, however, this is done within some of the predefined guidelines that were agreed upon by both HR and the union. The presence of the union in the workplace does restrict to some degree how employees are terminated. HR often faces challenges from the union whenever they try to discipline, suspend or terminate participating employees.

Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining is a negotiation process undertaken by a union on behalf of its members with human resources with the intent of entering a contract with resolutions to labor issues. Unions are formed because there is strength in numbers and as a collective, the organization would be more likely to cooperate with a group than if an individual employee attempted the same thing. The contracts negotiated by the union with HR that covers wages, benefits and working conditions are binding by both sides.

Considerations

In the United States, employers prefer to have a union-free work environment. Opposing employers feel that union presence takes away their ability to retain direct control over wages and benefits. However, an advantage of having a union in the workplace is that problem employees will bug their union representative instead of management.Therefore the union is sometimes forced to deal with petty things, which allows HR time to address meaningful issues.

About the Author

Debbie Duran is a human resources professional specializing in recruitment, cultural diversity and organization leadership analysis. She writes for GTJ HR Consulting and is also an adjunct instructor at Colorado Technical University. Duran holds a Bachelor of Arts in organizational leadership from Fordham University as well as a Master of Business Administration in human resources management from Colorado Technical University.