Human resources and labor relations are critical factors in the operation of any organization. Managing organizations often means the difference between success or failure of an enterprise. Managing human resources in today's complex organizational, legal and economic environment requires professionals with special skills and knowledge in such areas as employee selection, training, appraisal and motivation, compensation and employee benefits, and employment law and policy. For those in a unionized workplace or who represent labor unions it is important to study collective bargaining, labor law and legislation, union organization and arbitration.
In the United States today, most workers act as individuals to select jobs that are acceptable to them and to negotiate pay, benefits, flexible hours, and other work conditions. There are times however, that workers believe that their needs and interests do not receive enough consideration from management. One response to this is to act collectively by forming and joining labor unions.
An organization formed for representing members' interests in dealing with employers is a union. Labor relations is the management specialty emphasizing skills that managers and union leaders can use to minimize the costly forms of conflict and to seek win-win solutions to disagreements. (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, & Wright, 2004, p 470)
Labor unions in the United States today function as legally recognized representatives of workers in numerous industries but are strongest among public sector employees such as teachers and police. Activity by labor unions in the United States today centers on collective bargaining over wages, benefits, and working conditions for their membership and on representing their members if management attempts to violate contract provisions. Although much smaller compared to their peak membership in the 1950's, unions also remain an important political factor both through mobilization of their own memberships and through coalitions with like-minded organizations.
Unions begin their...