Law Course Catalog

7766. Labor Law: Organizing and Collective Bargaining

3.00 credits

Prerequisites: None.

Grading Basis: Graded

What do American labor unions do? In a nutshell, they negotiate and enforce contracts ('collective-bargaining agreements') that govern wages, hours, and working conditions for employees who work in unionized firms. From an employee's perspective, the contracts unions secure are typically superior to those governing non-union workers in at least three respects. First, they provide a wage-and-benefit package that is significantly greater than those provided by similarly situated non-union firms. Second, union contracts provide guarantees of job security whereas non-union workers are employed 'at will' and can be dismissed at any time for any reason not proscribed by positive law. Finally, union contracts come with their own enforcement mechanism: i.e., the labor union itself and a grievance-arbitration resolution process that is typically far faster, cheaper, and more effective than the judicial alternative. If unions provide American workers with such a terrific deal, it is fair to ask why so few contemporary workers seek and secure union representation. (Currently, just under 10% of the private-sector workforce belongs to unions, down from a post-World War II high of over 40%.) This course will explore that question and suggest a variety of possible legal, social, and economic explanations as we examine in some detail (a) the body of law governing union organizing (how workers go about getting a union in the first place, and the protections workers enjoy against employer and union coercion in that process) and (b) the law of collective bargaining (how unions secure and enforce collective-bargaining agreements, and the ways in which American law structures union power vis a vis employers).