Tactics Used by Labor Unions: Striking & Collective Bargaining

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The disagreement between the needs of the employers and the demands of the employees gave rise to the emergence of unions. The workers can not only bargain their salary but also working conditions, job security and benefits through the union. To get their demands, the unions rely on various strategies during the course of bargaining, including striking, parading, boycott and collective bargaining.


Workers refuse to return to work until their demands are fulfilled. The company comes to a standstill and consent to granting the union's demands. However, the workers on strike don't get paid, so the companies try the holding strategy to see how long the workers can survive without wages.


Unions might go parading with banners informing the public about some negative aspects of the company, like low wages or unsafe working conditions; also known as picketing. For example, in April 2001, faculty at the University of Hawaii, unhappy about salaries, went on strike for 13 days. Before long, many students began to worry about finishing the semester.


Another strategy that is brought into use at rare occasions is the union boycotting the company’s products and convincing other people to do the same. According to "Managing Human Resources," "In 2003, at the request of two affiliates, the Actor’s Equity Association and the American Federation of Musicians, the AFL/CIO added the road show of the Broadway musical Miss Saigon to the list, as the unions objected to the use of nonunion performers who worked for particularly low wages and to the use of a virtual orchestra." A virtual orchestra apprehended the musicians as it could substitute a live orchestra with software-generated orchestral supplements.

Collective Bargaining: Before Negotiation

Before the negotiation commences, attempts are made to strengthen the faith of the members in the union through circulating letters and holding meetings to foster unity. Terry Leap, in his book, “Collective Bargaining and Labor Relations” writes, "An increase in the number of grievances, letters to the union membership indicating their wage ranking in the job market ... or even a letter requesting negotiations commence early due to the number of ‘serious issues’ needing to be addressed are common tactics."

Collective Bargaining: Confrontation

Once the negotiation process is initiated, the union gets more confrontational. Unfair practices might be challenged, meetings are increased, union urges the board to make a speedy decision. The purpose is to pressure the board to accept the demands made. Gradually, the pressure is increased by bringing the concerns to the attention of the general public and enlisting a sympathy vote.


  • "Collective Bargaining and Increased Competition for Resources"; Arthur W. Spengler; 1999
  • "Managing Human Resource"; George Bohlander and Scott Snell; 2009
  • "The Labor Relations Process"; William Holley, Kenneth Jennings and Roger Walters; 2008
  • "Collective Bargaining and Labor Relations"; Terry Leap; 1995

About the Author

Kevin Sandler started his writing career as an academic researcher in 2005, and has since than been involved in writing for various magazines and academic specialists including Academic Knowledge, Scholastic Experts and eHow, among others. His specialities include personal finance, investments, business and project management. He has a Master of Science in finance from Tulane University, and is actively involved in the finance profession.

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