Labor Relations:
Striking a Balance,
6th ed.

John W. Budd
McGraw-Hill, ©2021

ISBN10: 126026050X
ISBN13: 9781260260502

Hardcover / Loose-Leaf / Digital

Winner (1st ed.) -- 2005 "Texty" Textbook Excellence Award !

Updated 6th edition now available !

Why study labor relations?
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McGraw-Hill catalog page (includes link to access an Instructor's Preview Copy)
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An award-winning labor relations textbook for undergraduates and graduates...

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? These questions provide the framework for analyzing the existing processes-especially organizing, bargaining, dispute resolution, and contract administration--as well as the major issues facing these processes--particularly the need for employee involvement, labor-management partnerships, and workplace flexibility in the context of globalization and financialization. Another recurring 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.


The first five editions of Labor Relations: Striking a Balance were well received by instructors and students alike. In fact, the first edition was recognized with a Texty excellence award from the Textbook and Academic Authors Association for the best textbook in accounting, business, economics, and management in 2005. The sixth edition continues to refine and update rather than overhaul the successful approach of the earlier editions. The fifth edition added a nonunion application to each chapter, and now the sixth edition adds a new "practically speaking" feature throughout the text in which management, labor, and neutral labor relations professionals give practical words of wisdom connected to the concepts being presented. Chapter 10 has been significantly re-written under the new title "The Evolving Nature of Work," and includes new sections on unions in the fissured workplace, unions in the gig economy, and automation and the future of work. Elsewhere, a discussion of the landmark Janus decision has been incorporated, including a consideration of what this might mean for the future. Changes that the Trump NLRB has enacted or has signaled an intent to consider have also been incorporated, along with the labor rights issues embedded in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that will replace NAFTA if it is ratified. Updated statistics, improved tables, and updated references appear throughout the text.


Part I: Foundations

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

Chapter 2: Labor Unions: Good or Bad?

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

Chapter 3: Historical Development

Chapter 4: Labor Law

Chapter 5: Labor and Management: Strategies, Structures, and Constraints

Chapter 6: Union Organizing

Chapter 7: Bargaining

Chapter 8: Impasse, Strikes, and Dispute Resolution

Chapter 9 Contract Clauses and Their Administration

Part III: Issues for the 21st Century

Chapter 10: The Evolving Nature of Work

Chapter 11: Globalization and Financialization

Part IV: Reflection

Chapter 12: Comparative Labor Relations

Chapter 13: What Should Labor Relations Do?


The National Labor Relations Act
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
A Sample NLRB Decision
Collective Bargaining Simulation: The Zinnia and Service Workers Local H-56


  • Extensive supporting pedagogical materials, including case studies, active learning exercises, visual aids, and labor law and grievance discussion cases (with extensive teaching notes). Each chapter also includes two online exploration exercises integrated into the flow of the text to help learners engage with the material.

  • An accompanying bargaining simulation helps students 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 focuses on three conceptual elements: the objectives of the employment relationship (efficiency, equity, and voice), the objectives of labor relations (striking a balance), and differing views of labor markets and conflict.

  • 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 issues (workplace flexibility, labor-management partnerships, the fissured workplace, globalization, and financialization) and multiple alternative directions for union strategies, corporate behavior, 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 workers' 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 5). 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, leadership, change management, the organizing model of union representation, and social movement unionism. Nonunion applications appear in every chapter, and practical pieces of advice are included in many places.

  • Separate chapters on globalization/financialization 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, central and eastern Europe, and Asian developing countries and the debate over convergence of policies and practices. The globalization and financialiation 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 workers' rights, transnational union collaboration, and issues for international managers, multiple dimensions of financialization, and ethical concerns.

  • 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--neoliberalism, human resource management, pluralist industrial relations, and critical industrial relations-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.

  • Appendices include the full text of the National Labor Relations Act, the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a sample NLRB decision.

    A Chinese translation published by China Machine Press is also available. The translation team included Professor Naiji Sun, Professor Guilan Yu, Professor Nan Yu, and Mi Yu, all of Jilin University. Chinese Cover

    Juky 24, 2020
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