Labor Relations: Striking a Balance, 2/e

John W. Budd
McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2008

ISBN-13 9780073404899

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Journal of Labor Research (Winter 2006)
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An award-winning labor relations textbook for undergraduates and graduates...

The traditional approach to studying U.S. labor relations focuses on an uncritical exploration of how the existing labor processes work: how unions are organized, how contracts are negotiated, and how grievances are resolved. And since U.S. unions have typically used these processes to win detailed work rules, there is a tendency to equate labor relations with work rules, and to therefore structure labor relations courses and textbooks around the examination of these work rules. In other words, traditional labor relations textbooks are dominated by rich descriptions of the how, what, and where of the major labor relations processes. But what's missing is the why. Labor relations is not about work rules. Labor relations processes and work rules are simply means to more fundamental ends or objectives. What are these objectives? Under what conditions are collectively-bargained work rules a desirable or undesirable method for achieving these objectives? In the world of work of the 21st century, are there better ways of pursuing these objectives? These are the central and engaging questions of labor relations-questions ignored by textbooks that narrowly focus on how the existing labor relations processes and detailed work rules operate in practice.

The importance of moving beyond a process-based focus in studying labor relations is underscored by the fact that today's labor relations processes are under attack from all directions. Business professionals, labor leaders, and diverse academics frequently criticize the operation of contemporary U.S. labor relations, albeit usually for different reasons. Analyzing whether the labor relations system needs updating and evaluating alternative options for reform require an intellectual framework that is rooted in the objectives of the employment relationship. A description of how the current processes work without any discussion of what the processes are trying to achieve fails to provide the basis for determining whether the processes are working, and fails to supply metrics for judging alternative strategies, policies, and processes.

This textbook presents labor relations as a system for striking a balance between the employment relationship goals of efficiency, equity, and voice, and between the rights of labor and management. It is important to examine these goals to discover what motivates contemporary U.S. labor relations processes, and to evaluate whether these processes remain effective in the 21st century. What are the differing assumptions (such as whether labor markets are competitive) that underlie alternative mechanisms for achieving efficiency, equity, and voice? Why is a balance important? How do both the external environment and individual decision-making determine labor relations outcomes, and therefore the extent to which these goals are balanced? These questions provide the framework for analyzing the existing processes-especially organizing, bargaining, and contract administration-as well as the major pressures on these processes-employee involvement, workplace flexibility, and globalization. An important theme is that the current processes are one option for balancing workplace objectives and rights, but that this system is under fire from many directions. The book therefore concludes with chapters to promote reflection on the strengths and weaknesses of the current system and the possibilities for reform. This material includes a comparative examination of labor relations systems from other countries and a consideration of varied U.S. reform proposals that include changes in union and corporate behavior as well as public policies.

This textbook therefore replaces the tired paradigm of "labor relations equals detailed work rules" with the dynamic paradigm of "labor relations equals balancing workplace goals and rights." This is not to say that the existing processes are unimportant. Labor law, union organizing, bargaining, dispute resolution, and contract administration are central topics that are thoroughly covered in the heart of this book using diverse historical and contemporary examples. Current and future labor relations practitioners will certainly learn the ins and outs of the traditional labor relations processes. But this is no longer sufficient for effective practice because labor relations practices are in flux. As such, the labor relations processes are not presented in this textbook as self-evidently good; they are placed in the broader context of the nature of the employment relationship to foster a deep understanding of labor relations. The logic and relevance of the existing labor relations processes are more readily understood when explicitly linked to the beliefs about the employment relationship that underlie these processes. This deep understanding further provides the foundation for critically evaluating future directions for labor relations and labor policy-what labor relations strategies, policies, and practices can most effectively strike a balance among the workplace goals and rights of workers and employers in the environment of the 21st century?


Part I: Foundations

Chapter 1: Contemporary Labor Relations: Objectives, Practices, and Challenges

Chapter 2: Labor Unions: Good or Bad?

Chapter 3: Labor Relations Outcomes: Individuals and the Environment

Part II: The U.S. New Deal Industrial Relations System

Chapter 4: Historical Development

Chapter 5: Labor Law

Chapter 6: Labor and Management: Strategies, Structures, and Rights

Chapter 7: Union Organizing

Chapter 8: Bargaining

Chapter 9: Impasse, Strikes, and Dispute Resolution

Chapter 10: Contract Clauses and Their Administration

Part III: Issues for the 21st Century

Chapter 11: Flexibility and Employee Involvement

Chapter 12: Globalization

Part IV: Reflection

Chapter 13: Comparative Labor Relations

Chapter 14: What Should Labor Relations Do?

Appendix A: Selected Laws and Declarations

Appendix B: Collective Bargaining Simulation: The Zinnia and Service Workers Local H-56



  • Extensive supporting pedagogical materials, including labor law and grievance discussion cases (with extensive teaching notes) plus an accompanying bargaining simulation for students to experience the collective bargaining process by renegotiating a hotel's union contract. The simulation is structured around websites for the hotel and the union at

  • A rich intellectual framework for understanding both the current labor relations system and possible alternatives. This framework is rooted in three conceptual themes: the objectives of the employment relationship (efficiency, equity, and voice), differing views of labor markets and conflict, and labor relations outcomes as the product of the environment and individual decision-making, including ethics.

  • Comprehensive, even-handed coverage of the New Deal industrial relations system-including history, law, and all of the major labor relations processes-as well as current pressures (employee involvement, workplace flexibility, and globalization) and multiple alternative directions for union strategies, corporate governance, and labor law. Engaging historical and contemporary examples are used to illustrate many issues. These examples are drawn from a wide variety of industries, occupations, and demographic groups.

  • Discussion of whether labor rights are human rights. Moreover, the clash between property rights and labor rights is highlighted as a central conflict in labor relations. This theme is used to increase the understanding of the legal doctrines that underlie the labor relations processes by seeking to balance these competing rights.

  • A serious treatment of ethics integrated throughout the text. Unlike any other labor relations textbook, major ethical theories and principles are discussed (chapter 3). Many chapters ask students to apply these principles to important labor relations issues.

  • Contemporary management and union strategic issues integrated throughout the text, including integrative bargaining, workplace flexibility, work teams, reengineering, leadership, change management, the organizing model of union representation, and social movement unionism.

  • Separate chapters on globalization and comparative labor relations systems. The comparative chapter discusses labor relations in representative industrialized countries (Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Sweden, Australia, and Japan) as well as in Mexico, Eastern Europe, and Asian developing countries and the debate over convergence of policies and practices. The globalization chapter is unique among labor relations textbooks and explores the pros and cons of globalization, debates over free or fair trade, the use of corporate codes of conduct and the International Labor Organization to promote labor rights, transnational union collaboration, and issues for international managers.

  • Issues specific to public sector labor relations integrated throughout the text rather than relegated to a special topics chapter.

  • Explicit discussions of four schools of thought on the employment relationship-pluralist industrial relations, critical industrial relations, human resource management, and neoclassical economics-and the importance of these different perspectives in understanding conflicting views of labor unions and labor policies.

  • Inclusion of diverse scholarship on labor relations incorporated throughout the text to promote a broad understanding of the subject, and to create an engaging, interesting book for the reader that draws on many disciplines and perspectives.

  • An appendix includes selected portions of the U.S. Constitution and the full text of the National Labor Relations Act, the International Labor Organization's Declaration of Philadelphia, and the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    The updated 2nd edition is now available! To order your complimentary examination copy, simply ask your local McGraw-Hill/Irwin representative, call customer service at 1-800-338-3987, or follow this link.

    ISBN-13 9780073404899
    2008 / Hardcover / 608 pages

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    January 18, 2007
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